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Thursday, December 14, 2017

After devoting considerable time to bashing the Republican frontrunner during his presidential run, Chris Christie has been tasked with heading Donald Trump’s transition team should Trump win the November general election.

But the press release announcing Christie’s appointment might be the only change to the Trump campaign. While a transition team does now exist on paper, the team doesn’t even have an official press contact. Instead, all queries are instructed to be sent to the New Jersey governor’s director of communications — quite possibly a violation of federal and state law prohibiting the use of public funds for use in campaigns.

The New Jersey Governor’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this issue, but according to Gawker, a Christie spokesperson was “trying to figure that out ourselves.”

Using the governor’s communication’s director as the press contact for the transition team may be in violation of the Hatch Act, which prevents using “official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination for office.”

Or there’s New Jersey state ethics law, which similarly states, “No employee in the career or senior executive service shall directly or indirectly use or seek to use his or her position to control or affect the political action of another person or engage in political activity during working hours.”

The mix-up further perpetuates the disregard with which Christie has led his state, of whose citizens only 26 percent hold positive views of their governor.

The announcement also raises questions about the Trump campaign’s knowledge of election law: Doesn’t Hope Hicks, Trump’s inexperienced press secretary, know not to direct campaign questions to state employees?

As chairman of the transition team, Christie will be tasked with setting up an administrative bedrock for the Trump administration, searching for domestic and foreign policy experts to provide some organizational structure to what would surely be a disastrous presidency. The announcement is only the latest in a bizarre series of twists and turns that saw Christie insult and attack the New York businessman only to emerge a few weeks later to endorse him as president.

When President Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, he formed his transition team the day after being elected. Announcing the creation of a transition team so far in advance of the Republican convention has the same potential to look as premature as Ted Cruz announcing Carly Fiorina as his running mate — then again, Christie’s probably thankful for the head start.

“Governor Christie is an extremely knowledgeable and loyal person with the tools and resources to put together an unparalleled Transition Team, one that will be prepared to take over the White House when we win in November,” Trump said in the announcement. “I am grateful to Governor Christie for his contributions to this movement.”

In response, Christie said, “I am honored by the confidence being placed in me by Mr. Trump and look forward to putting together a first rate team to assemble an administration to help best serve the President-elect and the nation.”

New Jersey’s governor once described Trump as lacking the temperament to be a president. For his part, Trump’s transition team is now chaired by a man who he once called “a little boy.”

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives with Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) at a campaign rally at Winner Aviation in Youngstown, Ohio March 14, 2016.  REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

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