Let Me Finish has Donald Trump’s White House firmly in the firing line – and Chris Christie doesn’t hold back
- The former New Jersey governor drops a dollop of revenge, chilled to malevolent perfection in his tell-all book about Trump’s team
- His target? White House senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who ‘repeatedly stuck a dagger in Christie’s ambitions’
Let Me Finish
by Chris Christie, Hachette Books
Chris Christie failed to win a single delegate in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and garnered less than one per cent of the votes cast in the party’s primaries. He then left the New Jersey governor’s mansion with a 14 per cent approval rating. Let Me Finish, his bombshell of a book, could just as easily have been titled Everybody Hates Chris.
In time for the second anniversary of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, Christie drops a dollop of revenge, chilled to malevolent perfection – and White House senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner is his primary target. Like most tell-alls, Let Me Finish is an exercise in score-settling, albeit one written from the realm of a dystopic presidency.
But what sets Let Me Finish apart is that it is written by an elected official whom Trump offered several cabinet-levels positions – just not the ones Christie coveted, like attorney general. Christie was frequently, but not always, in the room where it happened. And so Let Me Finish is a self-serving, fascinating and informative read.
From the get-go Kushner is the bane of Christie’s political existence. In his opening pages, Christie recalls how Steve Bannon came to fire him as the head of Trump’s transition team, and in the process Christie extracted a confession that Bannon was only doing Kushner’s bidding.
“The kid’s been taking an axe to your head with the boss ever since I got here,” said Bannon.
Long story short, Christie, a former federal prosecutor under George W. Bush, sent Charles Kushner, Jared’s father, to prison more than a decade earlier for a 14-month stint.
Coincidentally, that saga also involved witness tampering, tax evasion, a prostitute, a camera and a brother-in-law, all of which Kushner thought amounted to a “family matter that should have been kept away from federal authorities”.
Kushner repeatedly stuck a dagger in Christie’s ambitions and Let Me Finish is Christie’s revenge. With the assistance of Ellis Henican, a veteran of the newspaper Newsday and talk radio, Christie paints a portrait of Kushner as callow, smarmy, entitled and way over his skis.
Kushner appears lacking in judgment even as he is cosseted by his family’s wealth and shielded by his father-in-law’s title. Said differently, if Kushner were not married to the boss’s daughter, he would not be anywhere near the Oval Office or still in possession of a security clearance.
Christie lays at Kushner’s feet the blame for the hiring and firing of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, and the firing of the FBI director James Comey – and thereby Trump’s ensuing legal woes. In Christie’s telling, he advised Trump to either fire Comey at the outset of his administration or be prepared to keep him. That did not happen.
Instead, Special Counsel Robert Mueller tortures Trump by day and Comey’s ghost torments him by night. Meanwhile, Trump’s White House tenure has been reduced to a mum and dad family business, complete with a full-time special counsel.
While Christie pours his bile on those who surround Trump, he seeks to leave the president unscathed and mostly succeeds.
Kushner is not the only Trump official with a bullseye on his back. Christie dings a whole cast of characters. He chivvies now-former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, blasts ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort and brings the hammer down on Flynn, whom he labels a “Russian lackey and future federal felon … a train wreck from beginning to end … a slow-motion car crash”.
Critical of the initial iteration of the administration’s travel ban, Christie blames Trump’s aides and his absence from the transition staff. In other words, had Christie been allowed to stay, Trump would have hit the ground running. Perhaps, and then only to a point. Trump is chaos incarnate.
Let Me Finish also recalls how Christie, then federal prosecutor for New Jersey, first met Trump. It was a match initiated by Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which encompasses New Jersey, home of Trump’s bankrupt casinos.
As to be expected, Christie omits inconvenient details. Describing his appearance on Trump’s shortlist of vice-presidential candidates, Christie lets it be known he had also been considered as a running mate by Mitt Romney in 2012.
Nowhere does Christie mention that his earlier vice-presidential gambit ran aground after he was unable to quell the reservations held by Romney’s vetting team.
Likewise, Christie writes of how Steven A. Cohen – believed to be an inspiration for the television series Billions – was his strongest backer in 2016. But Let Me Finish fails to refer to Cohen’s hedge fund, SAC, being convicted of insider trading or Cohen himself being disciplined by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Throughout, Christie conveys a misplaced sense of being put upon. Unfortunately, victimhood does not suit him, not after Bridgegate or Beachgate, the time Christie and his family hung out on a closed beach during a state government shutdown.
In the end, Let Me Finish is a tale of Christie’s willingness to dance with the devil and turn a blind eye when needed. He never convincingly explains why he thought Kushner would let bygones be bygones, or why he concluded that Trump was constitutionally capable of faithfully discharging the obligations of office.
Claiming that “the president was ill served by poor advice” and observing that he is surrounded by “amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons” rings tinny. It elides how Trump got to where he got and why Christie felt forced to be part of the circus he now seems to abhor. This is what sour grapes sounds like.