Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Friday pulled himself out of the running to be President Trump’s next chief of staff.
Mr. Christie released a statement saying he had told the president that it is not the right time for him to take such a “serious assignment.”
“It is an honor to have the President consider me as he looks to choose a new White House Chief of Staff. However, I have told the President that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment,” said Mr. Christie. “As a result, I have asked him to no longer keep me in any of his considerations for this post.”
Mr. Christie, who competed with Mr. Trump in the Republican presidential race in 2016, is a personal friend of the president and was considered a top contender for the job.
Mr. Trump is down to five finalists in his search to replace Chief of Staff John Kelly, who is leaving at the end of the year amid a eroding relationship with the president.
Mr. Trump said Thursday that the five finalists are “really good ones” and “terrific people.”
He didn’t say who was on the list but it was thought to include Mr. Christie.
The president also has not given a timeframe for making the decision.
The original frontrunner, Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, passed on the job last weekend. That started an intense search, with Mr. Trump saying many top people were interested.
Other likely contenders include David Bossie, former deputy campaign manager for Mr. Trump in 2016 and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, both of whom have a personal friendship with Mr. Trump.
“I want somebody that’s strong, but I want somebody that thinks like I do,” the president told Fox News. “It’s my vision, after all.”
Other names mentioned include White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and GOP fundraiser Wayne Berman.
Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, was considered a strong candidate but Mr. Trump cut him from contention in a phone call Wednesday.
The president told Mr. Meadows that he is more valuable to the White House by staying in Congress.