Donald Trump has hired a former top aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) who’d been caught up in the so-called Bridgegate scandal to serve as his campaign’s national field director, according to multiple reports.
GOP operative Bill Stepien is expected to help Trump coordinate voter turnout in the run-up to the Nov. 8 election, NBC News reported.
Stepien twice served as campaign manager for the New Jersey governor, who is currently advising Trump’s campaign. He also served as deputy chief of staff for intergovernmental affairs during Christie’s first term.
Though Christie is serving as the chief of Trump’s transition team, the New York Times reported that the governor was not involved in the hiring decision and is no longer close with Stepien. According to the Times, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was behind the push to bring Stepien onboard.
The Republican operative fell from grace in January 2014, when Christie asked him to withdraw his name for consideration for chairman of the New Jersey GOP amid the fallout from what prosecutors now say was a politically-motivated plot to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge. In September 2013, a senior Christie aide had allegedly coordinated with senior Christie appointees at the Port Authority to orchestrate a massive traffic jam near Fort Lee, New Jersey in order to punish the town’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie’s re-election bid.
Emails providing evidence of the scheme were made public during investigations into the incident. Christie said in the January news conference that he had “lost confidence in Bill’s judgement” because those emails showed Stepien referring to Fort Lee’s mayor as “an idiot.”
Stepien’s consulting contract with the Republican Governors Association, which Christie ran at the time, was also terminated.
Stepien was never charged with any wrongdoing in the lane closure scheme.
This month, transcripts of a text message exchange between two Christie staffers were made public in which one former staffer alleged the New Jersey governor “flat out lied about senior staff and Stepien not being involved.” Christie disputed that claim.
This post has been updated.