TRENTON – Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, fellow defenders of President Donald Trump and longtime friends across the Hudson, don’t seem to be seeing eye to eye these days.
First, the combative former New Jersey governor denied a statement from Giuliani that Christie was willing to conduct practice sessions with the president for a possible sit-down with Special counsel Robert Mueller. And then, when the former New York City mayor said he’d been referring clients to Christie’s brand new law firm, the former governor’s camp rebutted the claim.
While the comments raised eyebrows, those close to Christie insist there’s no bad blood between the two men, both known for their confrontational styles. But the crossed wires reflect the different paths the two former U.S. Attorneys – both of whom were passed over for top positions in the Trump administration – are taking as Giuliani doubles down on his role as a Trump loyalist and Christie appears to take an increasingly cautious approach when discussing the president and the challenges of the Mueller investigation.
In the two months since Trump hired Giuliani to represent him in the Russia probe, the former mayor has acknowledged that Trump paid a porn star hush money to keep quiet about an alleged affair, suggested Mueller’s investigation is illegitimate and has even drawn a rebuke from first lady Melania Trump’s spokesperson over his claim she “knows” the allegation of an affair with the porn star, Stormy Daniels, is untrue.
Christie, who is now a commentator for ABC News, has taken a much more measured approach. “I don’t question Bob Mueller’s honesty or his integrity, never have, and having worked with him for years, I still wouldn’t,” he said recently.
Giuliani’s comments, one longtime Christie friend suggested, were meant to help shape public opinion against the Mueller investigation. Christie, the friend said, has been offering legal advice he hopes the president will take seriously – saying Trump should not agree to an interview with Mueller, contradicting the claim by Trump legal team that the president cannot obstruct justice and warning Trump not to try to pardon himself.
Rick Wilson, an outspoken anti-Trump Republican consultant, said he thinks Christie’s comments show the former governor is no longer angling for a position in the Trump administration.
“I think it’s a sign that Christie has given up on giving in the administration. He’s saying things that are actually reflective of the law, whereas Giuliani is saying things he just thinks Trump wants to hear . Maybe he’s trying to be helpful to Trump and give him the real picture,” Wilson said. “Rudy’s job here isn’t to be an attorney. Rudy’s job here is to stoke the Fox News machine to keep Trump’s base in line, and to throw bombs every day.”
Besides being long-time friends, Christie and Giuliani come from similar backgrounds.
Both gained the public’s attention because of their brash styles – sometimes in showdowns with their own constituents. Christie’s deriding of a radio caller as a “communist from Montclair” may have given some tri-state area listeners flashbacks to Giuliani’s famous radio fight with a ferret enthusiast.
Both headed up governments that presided over similarly-sized populations, and both were seen as major presidential contenders, only to see their campaigns fizzle early in the primary process. And while Giuliani became known as “America’s Mayor” after 9/11, Christie earned national praise for his response to Superstorm Sandy.
The two have also been staunch defenders of the president, though both were considered, and not chosen, for positions in his administration – Giuliani for attorney general and Christie for chief of staff. But they’ve taken noticeably different approaches recently when discussing Trump and the Mueller investigation.
“To my knowledge, the governor and Rudy have a great relationship and their friendship remains strong and close,” Christie confidant Bill Palatucci said.
Still, twice in recent weeks, Christie has publicly contradicted statements Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, has made about him to various media outlets.
Giuliani told the Washington Post earlier this month that he and other White House advisers were planning to prepare Trump for a possible sit-down interview with Mueller and that he was considering having Christie come in to conduct practice sessions with the president. Christie “is willing to do it,” Giuliani told the newspaper.
Christie emphatically denied the report.
“The WaPo story tonight saying I have been asked to help prepare @realDonaldTrump for any interview with Bob Mueller is dead wrong,” Christie tweeted after the story ran. “I have not been asked by anyone to do anything of the sort. The story is wrong.”
A few days later, when news broke that Christie had opened his own law firm in New Jersey, Giuliani told the Record that he had referred two of his own former clients to Christie.
Again, Christie’s camp debunked the story.
"Gov. Christie has not been referred any clients from Mayor Giuliani,” Christie’s spokesman, Pete Sheridan, told the newspaper.
Mike DuHaime, who served as Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign manager and was Christie’s chief strategist as governor and when he ran for president, speculated the contradiction in the Washington Post story was due to a “communications issue.” He said that perhaps Giuliani intended to ask Christie, but hadn’t actually done it.
As to Giuliani’s claim that he referred clients to Christie’s law firm, DuHaime said he had “no idea” why the former mayor would say such a thing.
Several calls to Giuliani were not returned.
DuHaime said he thinks Giuliani is doing both PR and legal strategy.
“He’s certainly talking about the investigation and making sure there is a large element of Trump supporters that legitimately believe there’s government overreach here,” DuHaime said. “I think Rudy is giving voice to that as well as having legal strategy.”
DuHaime said Christie isn’t trying to telegraph legal advice to Trump – whom he often talks to – through the television. Instead, he’s using his skills as an attorney and former prosecutor to do real analysis.
“I think everybody knows he supported the president during the campaign, but he’s giving his best opinion,” DuHaime said. “He has legal chops as well as the legal expertise.”
Palatucci says the fact Giuliani even mentioned Christie as someone who could help prepare Trump for a Mueller interview shows the two are still getting along.
“The fact that Rudy was recommending Christie as part of the prep team should disavow anybody of the notion that there’s something off regarding their relationship,” Palatucci said.
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