President Trump has begun preparing for the first of the three scheduled debates against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, slated for late September, according to a report.
The commander-in-chief is being assisted by a close group of confidantes, including son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, campaign manager Bill Stepien, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and senior adviser Jason Miller, according to Axios.
It is not clear if Christie, who acted as then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during Trump’s 2016 debate prep, will play the former vice president during rehearsals.
But Trump has told associates Christie “was better” and “harder to debate than Hillary,” according to the outlet.
“You don’t see any better puncher and counterpuncher than Chris Christie,” Michael Caputo, a 2016 Trump campaign adviser, told the Washington Post as debate prep was underway with the then-candidate.
The attention to debates, and Christie’s return to the team, highlights how critical the campaign views these three nights sparring with Joe Biden.
“I don’t think he [Trump] sees the debates as the last inflection points, but potentially the most important. I think he always thinks he can create an inflection point,” one source familiar with the commander-in-chief’s debate planning told Axios.
“But he has verbalized how important these are going to be,” the source added. “He’s said, ‘We gotta win. The press will never give me the credit for it, but the people will.’”
Christie was originally tapped to lead then-candidate Trump’s presidential transition team in 2016 but was ousted due to disagreements with Jared Kushner.
In his 2019 tell-all about working with Trump, Christie painted a scathing portrait of the first son-in-law — depicting him as vengeful, stupid and ill-equipped to work in the White House.
The former New Jersey governor accused Kushner of orchestrating a political “hit job” on him in revenge for Christie’s prosecution of Jared’s dad, Charles Kushner, which resulted in him doing time in federal prison.
“Steve Bannon … made clear to me that one person and one person only was responsible for the faceless execution that Steve was now attempting to carry out. Jared Kushner, still apparently seething over events that had occurred a decade ago,” Christie wrote in the book.
Christie also accused Kushner of talking Trump out of putting him in charge of his transition team. Despite publicly being named to the job, it was ultimately given to Vice President Mike Pence.
However, despite their differences, Christie and Kushner reunited two weeks ago, according to Axios, in the small group to discuss their debate plans.
They also agreed to meet at least every 10 days or so between now and the first debate and resolved to keep the group small to avoid leaks.
A Trump campaign spokesperson could not immediately be reached by The Post for comment.
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