Vice President-elect Mike Pence is taking over White House transition efforts from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – one of a host of changes announced Friday by President-elect Donald Trump as he works quickly to form his administration-in-waiting.
Pence will now serve as chairman of the transition team. Christie, the scandal-scarred governor who has supported Trump ever since dropping his own 2016 presidential bid, will remain on board – only in a lesser role, as one of several transition vice chairs.
“Together this outstanding group of advisors, led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, will build on the initial work done under the leadership of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to help prepare a transformative government ready to lead from day one,” Trump said in a statement. “The mission of our team will be clear: put together the most highly qualified group of successful leaders who will be able to implement our change agenda in Washington.”
The decision marks Trump’s biggest personnel move since being elected president. Speculation is widespread over whom he will consider for the highest-profile Cabinet and White House positions in his administration, but the first order of business was sorting out the team leading those discussions.
Christie was tapped as chairman back when Trump was still the underdog and transition talks were not seen as such a high priority.
Trump expressed gratitude for the New Jersey governor’s support in his election night acceptance speech. But in recent weeks, Christie’s reputation has taken more hits from the scandal involving staffers who shut down several lanes of the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 to punish a political rival.
Two more aides were found guilty of involvement in a trial where Christie’s own knowledge of the closures repeatedly was called into question.
Christie has maintained his innocence and said the outcome of the trial confirmed his past statements that those aides were responsible.
It’s unclear where the controversy goes from here, but Christie is set to continue serving as Trump transition vice chair along with Ben Carson, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Jeff Sessions.
The news comes as Trump himself was in New York for discussions on his future administration team.
Trump also announced Friday that several other big names would join the Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee, including: his finance chairman Steven Mnuchin; venture capitalist Peter Thiel; Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus; campaign CEO Stephen K. Bannon; and children Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump. Some of those figures are also seen as potential prospects for key administration posts.
Sessions’ chief of staff Rick Dearborn will be executive director of the transition team.