Bill Stepien was a close aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie before he was fired
He brings more than a decade of campaign experience to the Trump campaign's roster
Donald Trump’s campaign has hired a former top aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who was fired amid the Bridgegate scandal, a source with knowledge of the decision told CNN on Friday.
Bill Stepien, Christie’s former campaign manager and deputy chief of staff, is joining the Trump campaign as its national field director, adding a heavy dose of campaign experience – but also controversy – to Trump’s campaign.
NBC News first reported the hire on Friday morning.
Christie, a close confidante and adviser to Trump, fired Stepian in January 2014 amid the Bridgegate scandal in which Christie aides directed the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge as political retribution.
Stepien was not charged in the federal investigation into the lane closures, but court documents revealed earlier this month that a Christie aide texted a colleague amid Christie’s news conference on the bubbling scandal in December 2013 that Christie “just flat out lied about senior staff and Stepien not being involved.”
Stepien’s hire is the first addition to the campaign since Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon took over as campaign manager and CEO, respectively. And a source with knowledge of the hire told CNN that Bannon played a key role in bringing on Stepien.
Before his dismissal, Stepien had been widely expected to run Christie’s 2016 presidential campaign.
He previously served as national director to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and was New Hampshire political director to President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection effort.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to CNN request for comment. But Christie, speaking to reporters in Tom’s River, New Jersey, Friday afternoon, said he didn’t consult with Trump about Stepien’s hiring.
“I wish Bill the best of luck and I wish the campaign the best of luck,” said Christie, who added: “Mr. Trump’s campaign has confidence in him. They hired him.”
News of Stepien’s hiring comes one day after top Republican National Committee aides sat down with senior Trump staff in New York to discuss strategy, staff and resources in battleground states, sources familiar with the meeting told CNN.
Sources in both camps described the session as positive and productive.
After Bannon was added to the campaign’s leadership, there was speculation among some in the GOP that Trump, who raises money for the joint fund with the RNC and is largely relying on the party for field staff, could go his own way. Thursday’s meeting, however, is the latest evidence that is not happening.