New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's work as U.S. attorney might have made him a frontrunner for his current job, but he almost lost his prosecutorial post in a purge of federal attorneys in 2005, a new book reports.
According to "Chris Christie: The Inside Story of His Rise to Power" -- being published Tuesday by St. Martin's Press -- Christie's name appeared on an initial list of federal prosecutors being considered for firing during President George W. Bush's second term. The book also outlines the Republican's bombastic political beginnings, including accusations and litigation over his campaign style during his bid for county office. The book is authored by New Jersey political journalists Bob Ingle and Michael Symons.
"It was eventually learned that over two dozen of the nation's U.S. attorneys, more than a quarter of the total, were targeted for removal at one point or another during the review," Ingle and Symons write. "Among them was Christie - twice. On New Year's Day 2006, (Justice Department chief of staff Kyle) Sampson drafted a memo to White House counsel Harriet Miers in which he identified eleven U.S. attorneys to replace. He shared the draft with Monica Goodling, at the time a counselor to Attorney General Gonzales; she recommended removing two of Sampson's targets. They were removed from the memo emailed to Miers a week later - and found their way on to "Tier 1" of a list of potential additional targets marked "others," as did a U.S. attorney from Arizona that Goodling had included under the category of "other problem districts." And so did Christie."
The book reports that Christie's name appeared on a November 2006 memo prepared by Mike Elston, chief of staff to then Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty as a potential for removal. Ingle and Symons say that Christie called Elston to ask how his name ended up on the list when the memos were released by Congress in March 2007 and Elston did not recall why he included Christie's name. Christie told the authors that in a conversation with McNulty he offered to step down, but McNulty refused.
The potential dismissal and resignation threat came as New Jersey Republicans increasingly considered Christie as a potential gubernatorial candidate. Speculation started early in Christie's tenure as the state's top federal prosecutor, when he rocketed to statewide political stardom by focusing the U.S. attorney's office on political corruption issues during his tenure, which ended in December 2008.
Christie's tenure as U.S. attorney came after a tumultuous three-year stint in Morris County government which ended with the GOP establishment in the Republican stronghold turning on him.
During his 1994 Republican primary campaign for one of three seats on the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Christie accused three Republican incumbents of withholding documents related to the new county jail and launched an ad saying the three were under investigation by the county prosecutor regarding the county's purchase of a new trash transfer station. The ad ran after the county prosecutor -- a Democrat -- indicated there was no investigation and that no documents had been withheld. A judge denied the incumbents' attempt to block the ad, but Christie did have to backtrack and say the prosecutor had the relevant records, the book reports.
While Christie and an ally won two of the seats, the vanquished incumbents continued their litigation, the book reports, reaching a November 1996 deal where Christie had to publicly apologize in local newspapers. One of the incumbents, Cissy Laureys, would even refuse to turn over the keys to her county courthouse office for Christie to use until freeholders order her to.
The tables would be turned in the 1997 primary where incumbent Christie lost and sued victorious Republicans Doug Cabana and John Murphy, saying that the pair ran a false campaign ad saying the county paid for Christie's legal bills when he was sued by an architect for saying the county illegally hired the architect, the book reports. Cabana and Murphy issued a 2001 public apology to Christie in a deal. Murphy later would lose a 2005 GOP primary for governor.
Ingle and Symmons report that Christie lost his bid for a second term in a heated 1997 Republican primary battle where his opponents accused him of not being able to work with people. At a GOP unity event on primary night, the future governor found at least one GOP leader hoping for an end to his political life.
Christie said former Roxbury Mayor Chuck Dawson told him that night, "That's just me kissing your f---ing career goodbye," Ingle and Symmons report.