TRENTON — President Donald Trump is tapping Gov. Chris Christie to chair a commission devoted to combatting opioid abuse in America, two sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed to NJ Advance Media.
The Washington Post was the first to report the development Friday night.
The position would be a part-time volunteer job and would not require Christie, a longtime Trump friend and adviser and fellow Republican, to step down as New Jersey’s governor, according to the sources, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the situation.
Spokespeople for Christie’s office did not return messages from NJ Advance Media seeking comment late Friday.
Christie has been working with Trump’s son-in-law, New Jersey native Jared Kushner, on the issue, despite long-running reports of friction between the two of them, according to the Post.
Trump is expected to formally announce Christie’s position later this week, the newspaper added.
Fighting opioid abuse is one of the focuses of a new White House office Trump is expected to unveil Monday, to be led by Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump’s administration, according to the Post.
The new office, known as the White House Office of American Innovation, is considered a “SWAT team” of consultants and business leaders that will have broad power to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill campaign goals, according to the newspaper.
The Post added that Kushner and Christie, a fellow Livingston native, have been working together informally for several weeks about opioid abuse.
Another source familiar with the situation told NJ Advance Media that Trump is committed to fighting the problem and that Kushner is “very involved.”
Christie has long made battling drug addiction a key portion of his platform in New Jersey. He has vowed to devote much of his final year as governor on the matter.
It was reportedly one of the topics he and Trump, a former Atlantic City casino magnate, discussed when they had a much-publicized meatloaf lunch together at the White House last month.
The chairmanship would finally give Christie a position in Trump’s administration –albeit it likely a small one — after months of speculation.
Christie was once considered a contender for a top spot in the White House under Trump, but he was passed over for vice president and U.S. attorney general. Christie said he turned down multiple other job offers from Trump, saying none of them were worth leaving the governorship to take.
Trump has said he could see Christie joining the White House sometime in the future. Christie’s final term in New Jersey is up in January of next year.
Meanwhile, the new office expands Kushner’s power in Washington. The 36-year-old former real estate developer — a member of a prominent New Jersey family — told the Post that the goal of the SWAT team is to run the federal government “like a great American company.”
“Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens,” he told the newspaper.
As for the reported tension between Kushner and Christie? Before he was governor, Christie was the U.S. attorney whom who prosecuted Kushner’s father, New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner, on charges of tax evasion, witness tampering, and illegal campaign donations. Charles Kushner spent two years in prison.
That led to reports that Jared Kushner pushed Christie out of Trump’s inner circle — something Kushner denied.
“Gov. Christie and I decided this election was much bigger than any differences we may have had in the past, and we worked very well together,” he told Forbes last year.