Christie: I might let in Syrian refugees with better vetting
Gov. Chris Christie has softened his rhetoric on allowing Syrian refugees into New Jersey — but just barely.
In a speech Tuesday to the Council on Foreign Relations, Christie said he'd be willing to reconsider his approach to the refugees — if FBI Director James Comey can convince him the vetting is thorough.
Christie has said he's against allowing Syrian refugees into the country, even saying orphans under 5 should not be permitted.
And in a letter to President Barack Obama, he said New Jersey wouldn't accept refugees — even though it's not clear he'd have the authority to block them. He said in the letter he'd direct New Jersey agencies not to assist with their settlement, and requested nongovernmental agencies inform New Jersey about refugees they help.
Christie in Tuesday's speech said Obama continues to underestimate the threat posed by Islamic State militants despite the Paris attacks.
"This is a cult of evil, everyone," he said of the Islamic State group. Christie called the Obama administration's approach to the threat "naive and gravely dangerous."
The New Jersey governor has long highlighted his resume as he tries to stand out in the Republican presidential field. He was sworn-in as the state's U.S. attorney within months of the 9/11 attacks and oversaw terrorism investigations, experience he drew from during the heated debate over the expiration of the Patriot Act.
His arguments have found new urgency after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more, stoking new fears about potential attacks in the United States and a fierce debate about how the country should handle Syrian refugees. He is hoping the renewed focus on national security will help him revive his lagging campaign.
He cited congressional testimony from FBI Director James Comey that information available on those seeking entry is often limited.
"We cannot allow ourselves at a time of great peril to put ourselves voluntarily at even greater risk just because there are some folks who believe that it'll make our country look better," Christie said.
According to State Department Data, 75 refugees have been settled in New Jersey since Jan. 1
Christie he argued that Muslim-Americans will support his approach.
"What I'll tell you is that Muslim-Americans are not nearly that sensitive, not nearly as sensitive as some of the people in opinion places here in Washington or in the White House believe they are," he said. "They're Muslim-Americans and they understand that the safety and security of their family is at risk just the way the safety and security of Catholics are at risk, Protestants are at risk, Buddhists are at risk, when the American homeland is not safe and not secure."
— The Associated Press contributed to this story