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There is no one with more influence over Trump than Jared Kouchner: NPR

The New Book of New Jersey Governor Chris Cristi, Let Me Finish: Trump, Kouchners, Bannon, New Jersey and the Power of Politics in Your Face Details of his New Jersey history and thoughts about the Trump administration.

Elias Williams for NPR

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Elias Williams for NPR

The New Book of New Jersey Governor Chris Cristi, Let Me Finish: Trump, Kouchners, Bannon, New Jersey and the Power of Politics in Your Face Details of his New Jersey history and thoughts about the Trump administration.

Elias Williams for NPR

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie made a title in early 2016 when he dropped out of the presidential race and subsequently became the first big Republican to back Donald Trump.

Shortly afterwards, he was a leading transition team. At the time Trump won the November election, Christie says he and some 140 other employees have collected about 30 folders with short lists of different positions and strategies for legislative endeavors. "Chris Christie Incorporates in Trump “/>

But days after the election, Christie has left, and also his folders. Trump's team, presidential candidate and Bridgegate – among other things.

NPR talks to Christie about his new book.

The interview below is edited for length and clarity, and contains some snippets that do not appear in the audio version. It's hard to think of a campaign that continues to throw such a long shadow for two years in the presidency – but the issues about Russia continue to dog and determine Trump's presidency, So start here. You said you were in the Trump Tower all the time in 2016. Do you have any secret agreements

Listen, I do not think it was – I have never seen any evidence of that. … But I can tell you that I wrote in the book, but I do not think the campaign was organized enough to make an agreement. I saw it from a bunch of different angles.

I do not think they were organized enough to assemble a Tom Clancy operation with Russia. Now I may be wrong because, as I said, I was not there most of the time, I would say that in June or so we will go all the way to the elections because I spend my time in the transition

But let me I ask for a meeting you were there – in the summer of 2016. This was a classified briefing at the FBI headquarters in New York. So the British were there from [FBI] also from the CIA, the National Security Agency, and so on. On your side at the table, only three of you: you, Donald Trump and Michael Flynn, who, of course, became a national security adviser. What do you remember about this meeting?

Regarding what stood out in the content, I can not talk about it because it is classified. But what I can tell you … is how incredibly inappropriate I thought was Michael Flynn. It was humiliating to the people who informed us, interrupted them. He often disagreed with them. It's just completely out of control.

And you describe Flynn in the book as "a walking car crash."

Yes, I think this is a pretty good way to describe it. And what I'm going to tell you is that it was my day for me to conclude – although I suspected that Michael Flynn had nothing to do with the campaign, or if he ever won, the Presidency is moving forward. And I made this very clear to Donald Trump this day, and countless times after, to and including the day after the election when I met Donald and when he was elected president.

in the book, describe some of the contact with Russia as "blunt." Your word. This famous Trump Tower, which is held in the same summer with Paul Mannorth, then president of the campaign, and Jared Kouchner, and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitska.

And what I say in the book is completely readiness, namely, that this is yet another proof of how organized the campaign is. Any normal presidential campaign when a meeting request is filed will immediately go to the campaign lawyer's lawyer to see if anyone has to meet those people legally. I know this has not happened . Don McGeiner was never consulted or asked about anything because I was talking to Don about that. But also, secondly, I have known Don McGan for a long time. He is such an intelligent attorney that he would never allow such a meeting to happen.

Did you know if the President knew about it?

That I do not know. I have never talked to the President about this, but I've talked to Don. I know Don did not know. And no one tried to clear it in advance with him. And it's kind of naivety and bad things that sometimes happened in the campaign. And I did not know that I knew him very well in real time after the fact.

But, you know, the fact is that this way they were disorganized – and that's why I think the whole idea of ​​collusion was a bit overpriced. But that's Bob Muller investigating. And I hope it will end soon and give everyone a good idea of ​​what's going on so we can all make some decisions about how the country will move forward.

Here's what I'm still fighting with, uh, the question of collusion. You say he is overpowered. But you and I are sitting here talking a few days after Roger Stone, the sixth of the President's advisers, who will be accused of investigating Russia. If there was nothing to conceal, why are all still lying to the FBI and other investigators?

In my experience as an American lawyer for seven years in New Jersey, stupid people and bad people are lying all the time – all the time, even when they are not needed – and I think when you look at this group of people is a group of stars with great integrity, I mean, and that's why I'm not surprised by their lie. I do not think you can conclude that if they lie, they have to lie about something. At some point, he has to come up with evidence.

And I've said several times across the country over the past few years, I have a lot of faith and confidence in Bob Muller. I worked with him when I was a US lawyer, and he was the director of the FBI, and I have great confidence in his integrity, and I think he is conducting this investigation with great integrity. There is no leakage – and so many of us are constantly speculating about what they can do because nobody knows.

But guess what? This is the way it should be. He must keep these things private and quiet until he is ready to charge and / or issue a report. And I have confidence that Bob Muller will do it the right way.

Stay with your opinion of the people the President circumvents during the campaign, during the transition and now in his presidency. You have used a different set of words to describe them in the book: you called them blatant, weak, convicted and criminals. What does he say these are the people Donald Trump introduces into his inner circle?

I think there are, as I said publicly several times, a lot of bad things. a selection of staff, some of which are made, I know directly from the president, like Mike Flynn, others who are made by his inner circle at the beginning of the administration – you know, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. These guys made bad recommendations to him and the president made bad choices. … But I think the president now understands that since I think at all, his choice was much better than late than at the beginning. … If you look at some of the cabinet's choices, I think Mike Pompeo is an extraordinary choice as Secretary of State. I think Alex Azar is a much better choice as Secretary of Health and Human Services than Tom Price was.

Your official role was leading the transition, trying to convince the then candidate that he could win the presidency – and he would need a plan from the first day. You have collected 30 folders with full names of people who will be considered the best positions filled with draft execution orders – 30 folders that you say were thrown into the container right after the election. How do you know that?

They told me. The people who were there told me … they made a ceremonial ejection of this information, and I mean Rick Dearborn and Jared Kouchner and Steve Bannon. Now, I think letting me out is one thing, getting rid of the job of the 140 people I've been leading for six months, was monumentally stupid – get me out of it. The work was not done by me alone. This was done by 140 truly dedicated, clever, skilled people. And I think the administration has paid a price for it. The country has paid the price for this arrogant act and this act of selfishness because they now want to be responsible for what will happen.

Does the President have no responsibility here?

Listen, he is responsible for everything that has happened. Now he is not responsible for this decision – and I know he has not made that decision. [G] Everything else I had at that time, I do not know it's his responsibility to understand exactly what happened. But what I'm going to tell you is that he paid the price for it. Between you and Jared Kouchner's family there is a long history, a son-in-law from President Trump – a story that returns to your time as a New Jersey prosecutor. You blame the case against Jared Kouchner's father for tax evasion and forging witnesses, along with other charges. Charles Kouchner was convicted. He went to jail. And you say the son has been discontented. How did this happen when you two worked together?

If you read the book, there is a whole chapter called "Drought of Jared" when Donald Trump took me to ask me to be the president of the transition and approves the press release. Jared entered the meeting, without a call, between me, Mr. Trump and Cory Lewandowski, and began to argue why this decision should be postponed – although there is a federal law that says they must have

And when Donald repelled this and said, "Well, no, they tell me that the law requires me to do this, then Jared started telling him why. and why, in his words, he was unfair to his father and therefore unreliable, and that the crimes of which his father was accused were, as Jared said at that time, family matters that the family or the rabbis had to deal with . …

Eventually, Donald came to the same conclusion and said, "Jared, you know Chris is doing his job." He did what he had to do, and your father pleaded guilty. but I made my decision and Chris would be responsible for the transition. "

So you won this round. You were at the head of the transition until the containers were filled with folders. You say Jared Kouchner has fired you from this job. Have you ever faced him for this?

This told me Steve Banon – that Jared fired me from this job. And Jared denied that this had happened. But you know, the fact is that I've heard enough people to convince myself in my own mind that no other plausible explanation has been presented.

Once you were fired, you were eventually offered all kinds. of the Trump administration – Secretary of National Security, Labor Secretary, Ambassador to Italy, Ambassador to the Vatican. I mean, we'll just stop there and say, first, who rejects the ambassador in Rome? This must be the greatest concert.

Do you know who rejects it? Someone who is not rich. And if you are not rich, you can not afford to live in this home in Rome. Plus, I had two children in high school and the thought of asking them to leave high schools and come to finish high school in Rome seemed to me to be the ultimate selfishness on the part of the parent. And I would not do it to my children. And even if I wanted to, I could not afford to do it.

What about, for example, internal security work? You say you believe in the president, you wanted to perfect his agenda, so why not help him with the program?

I was not excited. I mean, if you want to ask me to stand up and leave my home, leave your family – because with high school children they would not change schools at 15 and 17 – it just would not leave it for something that really does not mean me excited where I really thought I could change.

And, frankly, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Department of Homeland Security, for me, is a mess – it's just a structural mess. It's a pile of a bunch of different departments, which I do not think they belong together. And I think it was created for failure. … I do not need another title. I was a manager. I was a US lawyer. I am a father and a husband. Is it true that he offered you a head of the White House headquarters just recently when John Kelly left?

He never offered me the head of the headquarters of the White House. He took me downstairs and we had a long, 90-minute talk about the opportunity to work. I went home and fell asleep – and I called back and told him I just did not think it was appropriate for me and I wanted my name to be withdrawn. The other things that I said no, right away. I slept on it because it was tempting, but I really felt, again, for me in my own life that it was not the right time to get into this situation. And I thought this was not the best for me.

Still talking to the president? What advice do you give?

All the time. What I say to him, say, for example, about the latest incident related to the closure of the federal government: I was a governor with a democratic legislator all the time as a governor of New Jersey. And the fact is that if you do something that is very confrontational with your legislature, you better have a plan to exit and exit if things are not going well. That was the advice I gave him about how to do it. I think he was convinced by others that they would be able to cope with this situation for him and that he would be able to give up on it. And I think we have learned that this is not the case. I think he has learned a great lesson in the last 35 days – and we will see how he will handle the next 21 days

It was announced late that Jared Kouchner was basically his de facto acting head of the White Staff home.

I do not know if it's true. But let's just say the following: there is simply no one more influential in the White House than the president for Jared Kouchner. He's not the only person he's listening to, but I do not think anyone has any more influence than Djerd's.

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