Vice President-elect Mike Pence will replace New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as chairman of the Trump transition team, the team announced Friday.
Christie had led the team since May, when Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. The New Jersey governor’s standing came under question in recent weeks, as two of his former aides were convicted in the “Bridgegate” scandal involving the political motivation behind the closure of the George Washington Bridge at Fort Lee, NJ, in 2013.
President-elect Trump told advisers he wanted to tap Pence’s Washington experience and contacts to speed up the transition process, sources told the New York Times.
Busy day planned in New York. Will soon be making some very important decisions on the people who will be running our government!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016
Christie will become a vice chair of the transition, along with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and retired lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn. Rick Dearborn, chief of staff to Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, will run the transition office, pushing aside Christie aide Rich Bagger.
The transition team will also add 12 members, including top GOP donor Rebekah Mercer, Trump campaign CEO Stephen K. Bannon, RNC Chair Reince Priebus, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn, and Trump’s family members: his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., and his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.
Kushner had reportedly objected to Christie’s appointment at the top of the transition team. Advisers emphasized that Pence and Sessions will take a lead role in the transition.
The promotion of Pence to lead the team provides further encouragement for conservatives that Donald Trump’s presidency represents the full ideological victory many “Never Trump” Republicans feared it might not be. It further underscores Trump’s ability to promote the advisers with the best experience for specific tasks.
Before becoming governor of Indiana in 2013, Pence served in the House of Representatives for 13 years, becoming chair of the House Republican Conference in 2011. He is both an impressive champion of conservatism and a well-connected Washington insider with executive experience in Indiana. There are few people better to lead the transition team.