The Christie Ouster and the Flynn Hiring

The Guardian has an excerpt from Michael Lewis’ new book, The Fifth Risk, which happens to be the chapter focusing on Trump’s transition team. On top of describing how Trump believed spending money, as required by law, to pay a transition team amounted to stealing his own money, the excerpt includes this account of Chris Christie’s firing.

Not long after the people on TV announced that Trump had won Pennsylvania, Jared Kushner grabbed Christie anxiously and said: “We have to have a transition meeting tomorrow morning!” Even before that meeting, Christie had made sure that Trump knew the protocol for his discussions with foreign leaders. The transition team had prepared a document to let him know how these were meant to go. The first few calls were easy – the very first was always with the prime minister of Great Britain – but two dozen calls in you were talking to some kleptocrat and tiptoeing around sensitive security issues. Before any of the calls could be made, however, the president of Egypt called in to the switchboard at Trump Tower and somehow got the operator to put him straight through to Trump. “Trump was like … I love the Bangles! You know that song Walk Like an Egyptian?” recalled one of his advisers on the scene.

That had been the first hint Christie had of trouble. He had asked Kushner what that was about, and Kushner had simply said, Trump ran a very unconventional campaign, and he’s not going to follow any of the protocols.


Christie was scheduled to brief the Trump children, Kushner and the other members of Trump’s inner circle. He was surprised to find, suddenly included in this group, retired army lieutenant general Michael Flynn. Flynn was a jobseeker the transition team had found reasons to be extremely wary of. Now he wanted to be named Trump’s national security adviser, which was maybe the most important job in the entire national security apparatus. The national security team inside the Trump transition – staffed with senior former military and intelligence officials – had thought that was an especially bad idea. Flynn’s name was not on the list. But here he was, in the meeting to decide who would do what in the Trump administration, and Ivanka was asking him which job he would like to have.

Before Christie could intercede, Bannon grabbed him and asked to see him privately. Christie followed Bannon to his office impatiently. Hey, this is going to have to be quick, said Christie.

It’s really quick, said Bannon. You’re out.

Why? asked Christie, stunned.

We’re making a change.

“OkayOK, what are we changing?



It’s really not important.

A week after Christie, along with former HPSCI Chair Mike Rogers, got purged from the Transition Team, I wrote a post that concluded this way.

One of the first things Trump has done has been to ensure agreement in its national security team on this point: that by letting our Middle Eastern allies arm al Qaeda-allied fighters, the Obama Administration created the mess that is in Syria.

And unanimity on that point — accompanied by what is sure to be a very ugly campaign of recriminations against the Obama Administration for cooking intelligence (even aside from the merit of this claim, Flynn has been bitter about his firing for what he sees as objecting to this cooked intelligence) — will provide the basis for Trump to work with Putin on ending the civil war in Syria to Bashar al-Assad’s advantage.

When I wrote that post, this text I received less than 15 hours after the polls closed, from someone I later came to conclude was involved in the election attack, was in my mind.

The text continued, in part, “clearly this confirms key role for Trump admin.”

As I surmised two years ago, there was a close tie between the moment Christie and other Republican realists got fired and when Flynn got picked.

According to this Michael Lewis account, though, the tie is far more direct than I imagined. The moment that Flynn got hired is the moment that Chris Christie got fired.

As I disclosed in July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

33 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Stealing his own money.” Last i heard, it was the campaign’s money, not his or his corporation’s. But the Don thinks everyone’s money is his money, including the money he “gave” to his supposedly charitable foundation.

    I don’t think “cheap bastard” quite captures the Don’s character.

    • TGuerrant says:

      Yeah, he has paid himself generously with campaign funds for office space and accommodations at Trump properties, air travel via his aircraft, and eventually, legal fees that the RNC’s not covering. Paying transition people he didn’t think he needed, at first because he didn’t expect to win and then because he had no clue what “presidency” entails that “celebrity” does not, surely did seem to him to be diverting the money from its best use: him. Little wonder he initiated Campaign 2020 the day he was inaugurated: gotta keep the spigot open.

  2. Trip says:

    “You got what you wanted”…Mother, to Pence. Ouch.

    Bannon is a complete dick, but that’s not breaking news.

    Holy crap, from that article, it’s amazing that this country hasn’t completely imploded already.

    You know the government is absolute shit, when Chris Christie comes across as sensible and the least corrupted.

    • Gilgit says:

      That was the most amazing thing about the excerpt. And you described the impression of Christie perfectly: sensible and the least corrupted.

      How can any group of people be so scummy that they make Christie look that much better?

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The initial transition team: “Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump, Manafort, Steve Mnuchin and Jeff Sessions.”  Incestuous.  It does reinforce how important it is that Manafort is now playing ball with Mueller.

    • Trip says:

      Manafort, at least, seemed competent. Trump saying he liked the Bangles, “Walk like an Egyptian”, as his first foray into diplomacy? JFC, Rosenstein would have been entirely justified in uttering the 25th, if he did.

      • BroD says:

        “Trump saying he liked the Bangles, “Walk like an Egyptian”, as his first foray into diplomacy?”

        I’ll bet the Egyptian delegation was rolling in the aisle at the UN.

    • BobCon says:

      It definitely reinforces how likely it is that Sessions had direct Russian ties, and carried out the role of liason between the evangelicals, Russians and Trump.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The moment he saw it [the several million dollars that had been independently raised and spent on transition team expenses], Trump called Steve Bannon, the chief executive of his campaign, from his office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, and told him to come immediately to his residence, many floors above. Bannon stepped off the elevator to find Christie seated on a sofa, being hollered at. Trump was apoplectic, yelling: You’re stealing my money! You’re stealing my fucking money! What the fuck is this?…

    Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money. Bannon and Christie tried to explain that Trump couldn’t have both his money and a transition.

    It took the potential for criticism from Morning Joe to bring the Don to heel.

    Nice to have an insider’s view on the ignorance and incompetence of Donald Trump, and his abject dependence on Ivanka, Jared, and disposable non-family handlers.

    It’s hardly unique to Trump.  More than one top executive manages complexity and uncertainty by redefining it to fit within the confines of his or her own competence.  They disregard the balance as “technical shit” they needn’t worry about, and could begrudge paying for.

    The more complexity and uncertainty, the more they double down.  It’s one reason companies fail.  It is more than exasperating that the executives who “manage” this way are the first ones to walk away with a golden parachute and another job in hand.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A stable, clean, well-lighted place: On hearing news of Trump’s victory,

    Mike Pence went to kiss his wife, Karen, and she turned away from him. “You got what you wanted, Mike,” she said. “Now leave me alone.”

    This is a guy who says he won’t dine or be in a room alone with a woman not his wife.  Perhaps it’s not for the prudish reasons he suggests.  He’s one step away from the Oval Office.

  6. Rapier says:

    I really hate to say this but does anyone care to dispute the general argument that “: that by letting our Middle Eastern allies arm al Qaeda-allied fighters, the Obama Administration created the mess that is in Syria.

    Qatar and the Saudis each put between $1bn and $3bn into recruiting, transporting, outfitting and paying jihadis from the entire Muslim world, many of them non Syrians from as far away as Chechnya and Malaysia. From 2012 on we were were presented serial lists of ‘moderate’ ‘rebels’ fighting Assad.  I am not going to wade in on “al Qaeda-allied fighters”  but  the idea that any of them intended to participate in a representative democratic form of government is, not put too fine a point on it, nuts.

    Since virtually nobody within 2 degrees of policy power in the US would consider anything but that ‘Assad must go’ by any means necessary we ended up with Trump and his crew of grifters making the case and trying to adjust policy, or what passes for policy in the Trump administration. Which has  now made any debate on the use of jihad to advance US policy even more impossible. Which perfectly mirrors  the US-Russia relationship post NATO expansion.

    Far be it for me to argue Trump isn’t a fruitcake but at root plenty of his gut instincts are rational or rational enough to deserve debate.  The thing is he doesn’t debate or make his case. He stomps his feet and creates, or tries to, another reality via a ragtag group of grifters and necromancers.

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      Thanks for this comment.  The corruption runs so deep that it’s hard to find a place to stand.  Why not start with the US supporting the Taliban as a way to stick it to Russia? Hard to put a pro-democracy spin on that one.  What part did the successful impoverishment of Russia play in the rise of the Russian mob? We have Special Ops forces in countries around the world. We’ve been toppling democratic regimes the world over for decades.  Where are we to stand in objecting to what Russia is doing to us? We grasp for integrity but scarcely know what it looks like. Still, I don’t believe for a second that Trump has even a glimmer of understanding about the mistakes of using al qaeda associated fighters.  I assume he was saying  these things as a reason for giving Syria to Russia. And that is all. There is no more integrity to Trump’s “thinking” than there is to the thinking of the decades of US policy-makers who cover imperialism with a thin veil of human rights and democracy.

    • Watson says:

      Putin’s hold over our president apparently results from Trump’s having solved his persistent cash flow problems by laundering money for entities in the murky inter-penetrated world of Russia’s security sector and Russian organized crime.

      Nonetheless, the greater evil in Syria is the terrorist fundamentalist Islamist opposition dominated under various noms de guerre by al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.

      The Assad regime in Syria is a corrupt, autocratic police state. It resembles Uncle Sam’s ally in Egypt, the al Sisi regime, although both of those governments share the virtue of being non-sectarian; and neither is as abhorrent as the fanatical, terror-exporting, vampiric petro-monarchy run by Bush/Obama/Trump’s sword-dancing soul mates in Saudi Arabia.

      US hostility to Syria has nothing to do with democracy promotion or human rights. Syria has been in the neocons’ cross-hairs for decades because it has been a foe of Saudi Arabia and Israel, and an ally of Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah.

  7. Doctor My Eyes says:

    Am I wrong to view all of this in the context of “how Simeon Megolivic came to own the US”? Wasn’t cooperation with the Russians part of Flynn’s transition activity? I guess Christie was merely associated with the mob in New Jersey. I don’t have nearly the command of detail exhibited here, but I keep focusing on Russia as the primary actor behind so many manipulations.  Where did the decision to bring Flynn on originate? The Russian mob infiltrates.  That’s what they do.  They have infiltrated our government.  This is the enemy we are fighting.  Does Kavanaugh seem like someone with exposure to kompromat? Pence? I would love to be reassured on this point.  I’m losing sleep over it.

    • BobCon says:

      Not that this is reassuring, but I think it makes sense to view GOP politics as run by a coalition of oligarchs, rather than just Putin. You have Murdoch, Koch, Adelson and some others deeper in the weeds I don’t know, along with a second tier jockeying for front row seats.

      Putin is a factor, to be sure, but I think it makes sense to view him as a major bidder rather than someone with a monopoly.

    • orionATL says:

      it’s “mogilevitch”, reputed head of russian maffioso.

      and yes, you’d be wrong to the point of inanity.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The ignorance runs deep.  It starts and ends with Donald Trump:

    They [Trump’s team] were about to take control of the portfolio of existential risks managed by the US government. Only they weren’t. On the morning after the election the hundreds of [Obama administration] people who had prepared [and were legally required] to brief the incoming Trump administration sat waiting. A day became a week and a week became a month … and no one showed up.

    There were no Trump transition staff to show up and be trained: Trump had fired them.  The Don can do everything himself.  When he does hire, it’s only the best:

    One of the CVs listed the new appointee’s only skill as “a pleasant demeanor”.

    The excerpt from Michael Lewis’s book ends this way:

    All these people [new Trump administration hires] had two things in common. They were Trump loyalists. And they knew nothing whatsoever about the job they suddenly found themselves in. A new American experiment was underway.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This Trump pattern is traveling further down the road blazed by George W. Bush.  His Pentagon, engaged in its self-styled global war on terror – largely against the Islamic world – famously refused to hire or promote staff who spoke Arabic or who knew the Muslim world, warfare or national security.

    The American-only staff hired to reinvent Iraq – after a coalition of the billing and extorted had turned into a failed state – were similar: fundamentalist loyalists who did not know shit.  DoJ hiring, too, was overseen by junior staff with similar “qualifications”, and lots of fundamentalist chutzpah.  They had mirrors in every federal agency.

    Their demeanor is best captured in a phrase borrowed from the movie, Gladiator, by a poorly qualified Republican voter suppression geek, Tim Griffin, who daily admonished his team to, “Unleash Hell!”  Sponsored by Bush’s reputed brain, Karl Rove, Mr. Griffin serially became acting US Attorney for the E.D. of Arkansas, a member of the House and Lt. Governor of Arkansas.  Personnel is policy.

    That’s the mantra of Dick Cheney.  His office of the vice president, with its small staff of long-time loyalists, acted as a de facto second presidency, filling in during the many times when George Bush left early for the day – or was never really there.  Donald Trump?  He has Water Bottle Mike.

    Like Trump himself, this is not an aberration.  It is today’s Republican Party.

    • BobCon says:

      If Trump was smarter, he never would have given Pence such Cheneyesque power over personnel. Having a ton of key people loyal to the one guy you can’t fire is a really bad idea, but you can’t expect Trump to think that far.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I would say Pence is not Cheney, he hasn’t remotely the reach, power, or ability to bend people over a barrel the way Cheney could and did.

      He does not have what Cheney had: the full power of the president backing up everything he says or wants.  He has, instead, the whimsical Trump, who treats him with derision, the opposite of Cheney’s circumstance.

      But it does raise again why Manafort, responding to some patron’s demand, insisted on having Pence on the ticket.

      • BobCon says:

        You’re right that Cheney had astonishing depth and breadth in his reach, much more so than Pence. I’d argue on the other hand, Bush had more capacity than Trump, when it finally dawned on him that it mattered, to pull back on the reins.I doubt Trump really understands the difference between the Army and the Marines, or what the Commerce Department does.

        As far as why Pence was picked, I lean toward the theory that it was initially purely political, and Manafort was expecting him to be in a purely ceremonial role. I think any of his shadier role in the conspiracy came later when the chaos and emptiness of the Trump camp became clear and Pence seized his opportunity.

        My pure speculation is that he filled the role originally handled by Sessions, and that Sessions stepped back from it well before the confirmation hearing questioning by Al Franken. I suspect Sessions already had good reason to believe he was under suspicion and needed to lay low. But I have no good info to back up that line of speculation.

  10. Willis Warren says:

    Trump didn’t plan to win, didn’t even care about winning. I predicted that it would ultimate be revealed that Trump’s job was to cause chaos and make it appear the election had been rigged for Clinton. This really supports that theory.

  11. Eureka says:

    This is downright chilling.

    Also, I never bought the line that Christie was ousted because of antipathy over Jared’s daddy’s prosecution. All I had was a general heuristic, “standard repubs out/bad repubs in.” This clarifies specifics about that aspect of the transition for me.

  12. orionATL says:

    the guardian has put out this story about a russian-american, connected thru acquaintanceship to the organization called russian railways, who gave money to the trump campaign beginning shortly after the june 9, 2016 meeting. (as an aside, i’ve always been curious about the role russian emigres played in the trump campaign.)

    “…Kukes made the claims to Vyacheslav Pavlovsky, a career Kremlin official and former ambassador to Norway. Pavlovsky is currently vice-president of Russian Railways.

    The disclosure raises questions about the role played by [Simon] Kukes in the run-up to the election and what information, if anything, was being relayed by him to his associates in Russia.

    Kukes’s donations began two weeks after the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016, when Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner discussed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton with a Russian lawyer.

    In total Kukes gave $273,000 (£207,000) to Trump Victory – a fundraising committee that distributes donations between the candidate, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and state Republican parties. He had no previous history of giving money to political causes.

    During this period he was in regular contact with Pavlovsky. In one email written in July 2016, Kukes wrote in Russian: “I am actively involved in Trump’s election campaign, and am part of the group on strategy development.”

    Kukes said that he would be in Switzerland from 20 July until 2 August, and asked Pavlovsky if he wanted to meet there. Kukes emailed again a week later, saying he would like to introduce Pavlovsky to a “close friend”, a Moscow oil executive, “who has just flown in”.

    They were discussing “very interesting projects for Russia and the US”, he wrote, adding: “I hope one of them will materialise.”…”

    the connection here, which is tenuous but typically russian gov spy ops stuff using unofficial russian wealthy types, is that pavlovsky is a v-p of russian railways of which pyotr katsyv is also a v-p. russian railways is government owned.

    natalia veselnitskaya was a lawyer for the katsyv family including son denis. veselnitskya was one of the attendees at the famous trump tower meeting between trump campaign honchos don jr, manafort, and kushner, and two sets of russian employees of the hyper-rich katsyv and agalarov families.

    the amount of money given is not much, but the possibility of a mule trail for money or other favors is interesting. the any mention of a moscow oil executive raises questions again (shudder) of carter page, though thevexxon exec with plenty of russian experience, rex tillerson, counts in also.

    • orionATL says:

      organizational listing of top officials in “russian railways”, wholely owned by the russian federation and created in 2003.

      this includes title and picture of peter kaysyv, deputy chief executive officer and head of the moscow transport hub centre,

      and vyacheslav pavlovskiy, deputy chief executive officer (of what?)

      pavlovskiy is the r.r exec with whom russian-american simon kukes chatted in summer, 2016 according to guardian reporting noted above.

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