Vice President-Elect Mike Pence Takes Over Trump Transition Team, As Chris Christie Steps Back From The Spotlight
Well, here's a headline that could end up proving very consequential. Despite the incoming Trump administration's transition team having been headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the final weeks of the campaign, it's now seeing some turnover at the top ― Vice President-elect Mike Pence is taking over the Trump transition, allowing Christie to pull back from the spotlight amid the damaging fallout from the Bridgegate trial.
Christie, now in the third year of his second term as governor of the Garden State, has plenty to think about right now besides organizing the new Trump administration. Just last week, former Christie aide Bridget Kelly and former New York and New Jersey port authority official Bill Baroni were convicted for their roles in the 2013 Fort Lee lane closure scandal, with both being sentenced to prison (both are currently seeking new trials). And all throughout the trial, both the defense and prosecution agreed on something: that Christie knew about the planned political retribution.
Christie has staunchly denied this, but regardless, it's not hard to see why he might not be the person the Trump team wants heading the transition right now. So the job now falls to the incoming vice president, and that figures to have big implications on how the administration might look.
That's because Pence was one of the most strident social conservative governors in the country, a more or less card-carrying member of the religious right who's championed some very destructive policies for the LGBT community ― like Indiana's religious freedom law, which Pence was forced to amend under public pressure due to the myriad ways it legally enabled anti-LGBT discrimination.
Pence is also an anti-abortion hardliner, to a slightly farcical extent ― he also signed a bill into law requiring burials or cremations for dead fetuses, whether from abortion or miscarriage (this is sometimes shorthanded as Pence's "fetal funeral" law). This has the practical effect of preventing fetal tissue from being used for scientific research purposes, and places yet another emotional burden on the woman.
In short, if you've been wondering whether Pence might be running the show in a big way given Trump's lack of political experience (and widely reported lack of attention span), this is a pretty glaring sign that could be the case. And if that's true, it'd mean that for all the talk of Trump being not terribly motivated by social issues, any gap between his personal views and the party's prevailing mood will be filled in by a cadre of socially conservative aides, cabinet members, and influencers. In other words, when it comes to social policy, the United States could end up looking as much like Pence's America as Trump's, and that's an outcome LGBT rights advocates need to be prepared for.