Christie on Trump immigration order: Base it on intelligence, not generalizations
NEWARK — Gov. Chris Christie said President Donald Trump’s intentions were good in Friday’s executive order restricting refugees and immigrants from seven countries, but he blasted the way White House aides rolled it out as a disservice to the new president.
Christie – taking questions from reporters for the first time in almost five months, after a substance-abuse related announcement in Newark – said decisions about homeland security should be based on specific facts.
“The president’s intention here is right. His intention is to try to protect our country from terrorist attacks from people who mean to do us harm. However, I’ve always believed you need to make those decisions based upon intelligence, not on generalizations,” Christie said.
“Secondly, the rollout of this executive order was terrible – the way people were not involved or consulted. There was confusion in the enforcement that went on here,” Christie said. “So you had people who have gone through the extreme vetting that you have to go through to get a green card to be a permanent resident here who were being detained.”
“The president deserved to be much better served than he was by the way this was rolled out,” he said.
Christie’s use of the phrase "extreme vetting" was noteworthy, given that the White House has alternatively said that a move to extreme vetting is warranted and that its proposal isn’t extreme.
Christie said the proposal doesn’t go as far as the “Muslim ban” Trump sought as a candidate.
“I know from speaking to the president about this during the campaign, he knew we disagreed about this topic when he was talking about a Muslim ban in general,” Christie said. “We know that that’s not what this policy is. He’s backed off significantly from that position he had during the campaign.”
Christie said he, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and others pushed to convince Trump to pursue “something more narrow” than a ban on Muslims. “This is narrower than that,” he said.
“It should be based in my view on intelligence information, not on generalizations,” Christie said. “And the president deserved much better than the rollout that he got of this plan. I think that’s what caused a lot of the mistakes that were made. And those mistakes are unacceptable.”
Part of the backdrop for Christie’s chiding of Trump’s aides is that he had once been considered a leading contender for a prominent White House or Cabinet position. He said he would have accepted the nomination as attorney general but turned down other offers.
The executive order announced late Friday was primarily written by Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller. Cabinet officers in the departments affected reportedly weren’t part of drafting the order.
Christie said he doesn’t disagree with Trump’s desire to prevent a potential terrorist attack and that most people would agree with that.
“But then you count upon your staff to be able to explain it, include the appropriate parties to be consulted, make sure the direction is clear on how to enforce it, so that you don’t have the mistakes and the confusion and the anger that we saw over the weekend,” Christie said. “I know a lot of those folks, so I’m not going to make any generalized statements about that, except to say I believe the president deserved much better than what he got from the way that thing was laid out, the way it was executed upon. I think anybody who looks at it objectively knows that wasn’t the way it should have happened.”
On Sunday, 17 state attorneys general signed a letter vowing to sue the Trump administration over the immigration order. All of them are Democrats.
Christie said he would leave it to Attorney General Christopher Porrino, a Christie appointee, to decide whether New Jersey should join them. He said he would be meeting with Porrino on other topics later Wednesday and anticipated that the topic would come up.
“I don’t think that that’s the right direction to go, to not enforce the order. I think the order was described and rolled out and enforced initially terribly. But the attorney general will make his own judgments on that,” Christie said.
Christie said he wasn’t tempted to dispatch deputy state attorneys general to Newark Liberty International Airport over the weekend, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo did with New York airports, in part because nobody informed them that detentions there were a huge problem.
But Christie also noted some of the opposition is rooted in politics.
“Let’s be honest about this, some of this is generated by politics, too. The fact is when you look at the list of state attorneys general who are moving forward on this, almost all of them are Democrats,” said Christie.
“Some of the knee-jerk reactions from Democrats have been a little bit shameful, too,” he said. “Yeah, mistakes were made, and people need to stand up who made those mistakes in the implementation. But also, let’s not be trying to take complete advantage of the situation for political gain, as well. I think that just makes the situation worse and doesn’t make our country safer, and that should be the goal.”
Meanwhile, leading Democratic state senators said the Senate will vote Monday on a resolution condemning Trump's immigration-related executive orders.
Christie made his remarks at Renaissance House in Newark, where he announced the state would increase the number of beds available for treating behavioral health and substance abuse disorders by almost 40 percent, an additional 864 beds.
The additional beds would serve Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Sussex and Warren counties.
There are currently no such treatment beds in Cape May, Salem and Warren counties, the state’s three least-populous counties.