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Chris Christie warns road ahead politically fraught for Trump-focused special counsel

FILE – In this Nov. 29, 2017, file photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference in Newark, N.J. Christie tweeted on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, that he has tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File) (Julio Cortez/AP)

Chris Christie warns road ahead politically fraught for Trump-focused special counsel

David M. Drucker

November 18, 03:40 PM November 18, 03:40 PM

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LAS VEGAS Former Gov. Chris Christie said in an interview that appointing a special counsel to oversee multiple federal inquiries into former President Donald Trump is both necessary and fraught with political peril.

Christie, a former U.S. attorney, was speaking hypothetically Thursday afternoon before news broke that Attorney General Merrick Garland would appoint career prosecutor Jack Smith to handle the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s possession of classified government documents since leaving the White House, as well as the inquiry relating to the former president’s handling of his loss to President Joe Biden in 2020.

In the interview, Christie said he presumed Garland was considering appointing a special counsel to oversee the investigations now that Trump had announced his White House bid and could wind up challenging the attorney general’s “boss,” Biden, in 2024 if he wins the Republican nomination — and if the Democratic incumbent seeks a second term.

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“Now, you have a situation where the person you’re investigating is a declared candidate against your boss,” Christie told the Washington Examiner while in Las Vegas to attend a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition. “I think Merrick Garland, certainly after [Trump’s] announcement two days ago, has got to be at least considering appointing a special counsel.”

Christie’s comments turned out to be prescient.

“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election and the sitting president’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said Friday during a news conference.

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Christie cautioned that investigating a former president who is a declared candidate for the White House remains sensitive and has the potential to be politically explosive even with the appointment of a special counsel. Christie said one way Garland might have dealt with this challenge is by appointing a known Republican and experienced prosecutor with trust and credibility in the legal community.

“My view is, if he did, he should appoint a Republican,” Christie said. “Otherwise, if you appoint just another Democrat, no one’s going to buy it. You need to appoint a Republican. It doesn’t have to be [former Attorney General] Bill Barr. But you should appoint a Republican who has a history in this business and has some credibility.”

Garland ultimately went in a different direction. Smith is a former prosecutor in the New York district attorney’s office and a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. A veteran of the Justice Department, Smith is currently prosecuting international war crimes at the Hague but is returning to the United States to accept Garland’s assignment.

Christie’s comments came in response to a question about his assessment of the federal investigation into Trump’s possession of classified documents since leaving the White House that ultimately prompted the FBI to execute a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. Christie is a former Trump ally who has been critical of the former president’s handling of his loss to Biden in 2020.

The former two-term New Jersey governor ran for president in 2016 and is considering another run for the White House in 2024. He was scheduled to address Republican Jewish Coalition members on Saturday. The group’s conference is considered the first major event of the GOP’s 2024 primary season, with several possible Republican contenders set to appear.

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