Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House on Thursday as President Donald Trump considers appointing him as the next attorney general to replace Jeff Sessions.
Two sources who spoke with NBC News said Christie, who previously served as the top federal prosecutor for New Jersey, is being eyed as a potential replacement for Sessions.
NBC News is aware of other potential candidates — and there is no sign that Christie is the front-runner for the job, which Sessions quit Wednesday under pressure from Trump.
The president had been angered since early 2017 about Sessions’ recusal from an ongoing federal investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, possible collusion by the Trump campaign in that effort, and other issues that have led to guilty pleas from former Trump campaign officials.
Sessions’ recusal directly led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to handle that investigation, which Trump has repeatedly called a “witch hunt.”
Christie was at the White House to meet with Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, to discuss prison reform efforts, a White House official told NBC News. The official said there was no meeting scheduled between Trump and Christie but did not rule out the possibility that one would happen.
Christie and Kushner have had a fraught relationship, which dates to Christie’s years as U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, when he successfully prosecuted Kushner’s billionaire real-estate developer father, Charles Kushner.
Christie, who conducted a failed bid for 2016 Republican nomination for president, eventually supported Trump’s candidacy. He was appointed to lead his presidential transition team after Trump won that race, but he was fired soon afterward in what was seen as a power struggle with Kushner.
In the case Christie brought in New Jersey, the then-top-Democratic donor Charles Kushner pleaded guilty in 2004 to tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign contributions.
Before he was convicted, Charles Kushner, who was sentenced to two years in prison, had hired a prostitute to lure his brother-in-law into a sexual tryst, which was then secretly recorded. Charles Kushner then had the videotape of the encounter sent to his own sister, who was the man’s wife.
At the time, Charles Kushner’s brother-in-law was cooperating with federal investigators in the case that led to Kushner’s conviction.
After Charles Kushner was sentenced, Christie said, “It shows that no matter how rich and powerful you are in this state you will be prosecuted and punished for crimes you commit.”
“This sends a strong message that when you commit the vile and heinous acts that he has committed you will be caught and punished,” Christie had said.
Jared Kushner, in a 2014 interview, said his father’s arrest made him reconsider his plans to become a prosecutor.
“Seeing my father’s situation, I felt what happened was obviously unjust in terms of the way they pursued him,” Kushner told The Real Deal, a real-estate news site.
As Trump considers a replacement for the attorney general slot, Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, has been appointed acting attorney general.
Whitaker also has assumed oversight of Mueller’s investigation, and has the authority to fire Mueller if he finds good cause to do so. Before Sessions quit, the Mueller probe was being overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Whitaker had criticized the Mueller probe on several occasions before he was hired at the Justice Department. Democrats have called on Whitaker to allow Mueller to continue his work.