Cashing Christie’s Check

Here is another fun anecdote from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s memoir Let Me Finish that I haven’t seen reported anywhere else. His wife turned forty on September 15, 2003, and he wanted to take her out to a nice restaurant. Christie’s new friendship with Trump got himself a reservation and more at Le Cirque. Trump had tried to set them up at Jean-Georges but his other restaurant was already committed that night to a private event:

I felt his large presence from the moment we walked in.

“Mr. and Mrs. Christie,” the maître d’ at Le Cirque welcomed us, “we’re so happy you’re here tonight.” Before we’d even reached our table, I was summoned to the phone. “Chris, I’m so embarrassed about the Jean-Georges thing. But it’s going to be a very special evening. You tell Mary Pat happy birthday.”

It was like that all evening. Course after fabulous course. Everything impeccably served, right down to the absurdly elaborate Le Cirque Stove, a signature dessert that Donald ordered for Mary Pat. It was a milk chocolate stove with sponge cake inside and three little fruit sauce pans on top. A woman at the next table had tried to order one and was told that the dessert was unavailable. “Who are you?” she leaned over and whispered to Mary Pat.

Finally, the maître d’ asked if there would be anything else. “Just the check, please,” I said.

“There’s no check tonight,” he said. “The check has been taken care of by Mr. Trump.”

Everything until then had been lovely. But that I couldn’t do.

“No, no,” I said firmly. “I can’t accept that from Mr. Trump. You need to bring me a check.”

The maître d’ looked pained. “You don’t understand, Mr. Christie,” he said. “Mr. Trump has asked me to charge him for the dinner.”

“You don’t understand,” I countered. “I’m the United States attorney. I’m the chief federal law enforcement officer in New Jersey. I cannot accept a gift from him like this. I need to have the check.”

“You’ll have to straighten that out with Mr. Trump,” the man said. “I’m not getting in the middle of it.”

“Then, please bring the menu back,” I said.

He returned with the menu. I wrote down the prices of everything we’d ordered. The next day in the office, I added it all up, threw in a nice tip, and wrote a note on my US Attorney stationery:

Dear Donald, 
Thank you so much for setting up the dinner. We had a wonderful time. Thanks for the phone call. I really appreciate your checking in. However, your picking up the check was unacceptable. So enclosed, please find my check. You say you want to be my friend. If you do, you’ll cash this check. 
Thank you, 
Chris Christie. 

I mailed the check.

He didn’t cash it.

I checked my bank statement for the next two months. The check still hadn’t cleared. Then I called Donald’s incredible executive assistant, Rhona Graff, and told her I needed to speak to Donald.

“I’m not happy right now,” I said when he picked up. “You haven’t cashed my check.”

“Of course, I haven’t cashed it,” he said. “I framed it.”

“You framed it?”

“I framed it,” he said. “You’re the first person in public life who’s ever sent a check to me. So, I framed it.”

“Listen,” I said. “This isn’t funny. Take a Xerox of it, and frame the Xerox, if you want. You need to cash the check. I’m not kidding, Donald.”

He let out a long, pained sigh. “Is it very important to you?” he asked.

“It’s very important to me,” I answered.

“Incredible,” he said. “You’re the most honest public servant I’ve ever met in my life. You sent a check to me. All right. I’ll cash the check.”

And finally, the check cleared through my account. On the back was an endorsement, in a sweeping script that would become unmistakable: a big, fat Donald J. Trump signature.

I’m sure Trump’s observation was no hyperbole. I doubt the Clintons ever wrote him a check.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there.