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Pence will lead Trump transition

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stands with Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stands with Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Vice President-elect Mike Pence will take the helm in crafting the next presidential administration as he takes over as chairman of the transition effort, President-elect Donald Trump’s transition organization announced Friday.

Pence will take over the top position on the transition team from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who began leading the presidential transition in the months before Trump’s surprise victory.

Christie will now serve as a vice-chairman to the transition effort alongside Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Dr. Ben Carson and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all of whom have been close confidantes of the billionaire during his presidential campaign.

Trump said in a statement that Pence “will build on the initial work” Christie accomplished “to help prepare a transformative government ready to lead from day one.

“The mission of our team will be clear: put together the most highly qualified group of successful leaders who will be able to implement our change agenda in Washington. Together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding this nation — specifically jobs, security and opportunity,” Trump said.

The New York Times first reported the shakeup.

Trump also announced a 16-member executive committee advising the transition efforts composed of Trump’s children, some of his top political supporters and some of the top advisers to his campaign, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and campaign CEO Steve Bannon, who are both leading contenders to be named White House chief of staff.

Trump also formalized the staffing of his transition team, including naming Sessions’ chief of staff, Rick Dearborn, as executive director.

Trump’s senior campaign staff will also transition to roles with the presidential transition organization, largely retaining the same roles they had with the campaign. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway will serve as senior adviser.

Sources also told CNN top Pence staffers Marc Short and Nick Ayers will be heavily involved.

Longstanding relationship with Hill Republicans

Pence, the governor of Indiana and a former member of Congress, is not the first vice president to lead transition efforts. Former Vice President Dick Cheney played a leading role in the transition leading up to George W. Bush’s presidency.

Pence was tapped for the post in part because of his deep and longstanding relationships with both Republicans on Capitol Hill and Republican governors. The role will complement Pence’s efforts during the campaign in urging Republicans to rally around Trump’s candidacy.

The decision to backbench Christie comes as the New Jersey governor faces intensifying scrutiny over his role in lane closures of the George Washington Bridge after two of his former aides were convicted in the scandal. Christie has denied any wrongdoing, but federal authorities continue to probe his role in the incident.

Two sources familiar with the process said the Bridgegate scandal and questions over Christie’s loyalty to Trump were factors in the decision. While Christie was one of Trump’s earliest prominent backers, he disappeared from the public eye after the surfacing of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump bragged about groping women.

Christie has also had a tenuous relationship with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has been intimately involved in transition efforts, stemming from Christie’s prosecution of Kushner’s father.