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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Gov. Chris Christie On San Bernardino, The President, Terrorism, And The Campaign

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It’s really worth the entire listen. Transcript to follow shortly.

The Audio:

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The transcript:

HH: I was on Don Lemon last night with Nick Kristof saying this is terrorism, people with eyes can see it, people with ears can hear it, and confirmed today the wife of the attacker, the first attacker, the co-attacker pledged allegiance to ISIS. Joining me to discuss this and other developments, the Governor of New Jersey and former federal prosecutor, Chris Christie. Governor, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

CC: Happy to be back, Hugh, thanks for having me.

HH: What is your reaction to this news of the pledge of allegiance to ISIS by the second of the two attackers?

CC: I’m not surprised at all. As you know, I said yesterday that on the first night of this, I turned to my wife after watching about an hour and a half of the coverage, and I said this is a terrorist attack. This isn’t workplace violence. And the fact is that that’s what my experience led me to believe, Hugh. No one else in this race, no one else on that stage has done what I’ve done. I spent seven years prosecuting terrorists. And the fact is you can see it and you can feel it when you have the experience. And I have the experience. I knew that, so I’m not surprised at all to hear today that she pledged allegiance to ISIS, and we’re going to hear even more of this as the days go forward. And this President and Hillary Clinton sit and dither, are unwilling to call it what it is. This leadership by euphemism needs to end, Hugh. We need leaders…

HH: Very well put.

CC: …who are bold and direct.

HH: Very well put. I want to come back to the President in one second, but more breaking news today. FBI agents searched a home yesterday in Corona for the second time, and they had a federal search warrant, but, “the affidavit in support of the warrant is under seal, so I cannot comment further.” What’s that mean, Chris Christie? You used to do this, so you’re the guy I can ask about this.

CC: Yeah, sure, what it is means that there’s intelligence information in that affidavit that might tip off folks that perhaps, and this is speculation now, Hugh, but other people who may be involved, other organizations that might be involved, that might still be at large. And so what you want to make sure of when you put together a search warrant affidavit is to put under seal those things which you think would compromise the investigation in any way if they were made public immediately. And those things are always made public afterwards, but at a time when there can be some sense of safety and security that the information won’t compromise the ongoing investigation.

HH: Now this goes to the question of metadata collection. Do you believe the lapse of the Patriot Act provisions that allowed the NSA to store the metadata, and there had to have been a warrant under the new regime to go and get this data from the phone company, do you think that law was ill-advised?

CC: Oh, I think the change in the law was completely ill-advised. And I think that Senator Paul and Senator Cruz, along with the president of the United States and Hillary Clinton have a lot to answer for. And the fact is I told, you remember, Hugh, at the first debate in Cleveland, Senator Paul and I had a back and forth about this, and I said this action has made America weaker and more vulnerable. And here we are not more than six months later, seven months later, we’re now looking at attacks on the American homeland. And Hugh, this is a major mistake, and as president, I will reverse it. And anyone who voted to change that law cannot be trusted to be a reliable leader on terrorism.

HH: You’re speaking of Ted Cruz, then, who is obviously one of your chief competitors in the top tier of candidates?

CC: And Senator Paul as well, absolutely, the two of them.

HH: All right, now let me go back to the President. I want to play for you, Governor Christie, three clips. The first one is a compilation from the day after the Benghazi attacks in the Rose Garden, the second two from the last two days. First, this is the President referring to the video and then to terrorism in the Rose Garden. It’s a compilation. We edited it down, it’s 45 seconds, cut number one:

BO: Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts…No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.

HH: So that was after Benghazi. On Wednesday night, he sat down with Norah O’Donnell, and here’s what the President said on Wednesday night.

BO: Well, we don’t know that much, yet. It’s still an active situation. The FBI is on the ground offering assistance to local officials as they need it. It does appear that there are going to be some casualties. And you know, obviously our hearts go out to the victims and the families. The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world. And there’s some steps we could take not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently – common sense gun safety laws, stronger background checks.

HH: And then, this is what he said in the Oval Office yesterday, Governor Christie.

BO: It is possible that this was terrorist-related, but we don’t know. It’s also possible that this was workplace-related. And until the FBI has been able to conduct what are to be a large number of interviews, until we understand the nature of the workplace relationship between the individual and his superiors, because he worked with the organization where this terrible shooting took place, until all the social media and electronic information has been exploited, we’re just not going to be able to answer those questions.

HH: Now Governor Christie, I’m not a prosecutor, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn, but I did serve in the Counterintelligence Special Assistant’s job to Bill Smith and Ed Meese, and I know pattern and practice when I hear it. He has a pattern of trying to reshape the narrative. Do you agree or disagree with that?

CC: Well, of course he does, because to fit his liberal, anti-2nd Amendment, confiscate guns agenda. And that’s what this is about. Now you know, the President wanted to be careful about calling it terrorism, but on the very first day, he was more than happy to say this was about having more common sense gun laws. Well, does he really think today that common sense gun laws would have prevented terrorists from attacking that site?

HH: Agree.

CC: Does he really think the terrorists are going to wait for a background check? Does he really, I mean, we know these folks own these guns legally. But as the terrorist threat grows even larger, this is the naïveté, and by the way, the outrageous liberal agenda that both he and Hillary Clinton pursued. They wanted to manipulate this tragedy for their own purposes, to put forward their anti-2nd Amendment agenda. There was no proof that this was a traditional mass shooting right from the beginning – tactical gear and semi-automatic weapons that these folks had, and then later on, the explosives in the truck and all the rest, screamed of terrorism. But there’s, you know, you remember, this is the White House that said that a crisis is an awful thing to waste. This is their attitude. Any crisis that occurred that they could use it to put forward a greater effort on their liberal agenda, they do it.

HH: Now Governor Christie, I reject, as you do, the right wing lunacy that the President is in favor of our Muslim enemies, et cetera. I reject all that. Nevertheless, he is so reluctant to ever raise the possibility that Islamist terrorism is a genuine threat, I think because it threatens his vision of the grand alliance and rapprochement with Iran. I don’t know why, but back to the Rose Garden thing, he brought up the video, then he mentioned terrorism. The last two days, he mentions terrorism, but he messes it up with workplace violence. What is going on in that head?

CC: Well, this is political correctness run amok by both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The fact is I contend, Hugh, that euphemisms lead a greater opportunity to offend than actually saying it plainly. When I say that I oppose radical Muslim jihadism, Muslims in my state, and I have the second largest Muslim population in my state, of any state in America. Muslims in my state who are peaceful, loving, productive American citizens know that I’m not talking about them. But when I’m unwilling to say things plainly, they wonder who I’m talking about. The President and Mrs. Clinton have it exactly wrong. Let’s call out the people who are the violent jihadists, not only to call them out, but also to distinguish them from the peaceful, productive Muslim citizens we have in our country.

HH: That’s very well-stated. Let me ask you one more prosecutor question. How can the brother-in-law of the killer end up at a CAIR press conference on the night of the attack? How did the FBI allow that to happen?

CC: You know, that’s a good question. And that’s one that I don’t have an answer for, but I’m sure the FBI’s going to have to answer for that sometime in the very near future. But you would think that that would be locked down a little bit.

HH: All right, let me switch over to politics, Governor Christie, and look to the general election. Mrs. Clinton has said she wants 10,000 Syrian refugees and more. You have an objection to that, as do all the other Republicans. What is the level of risk that she appears to be running here, because you know, if even one of those 10,000 has been recruited in the way that theses killers are recruited, either directly or indirectly through the web, I don’t know if I run that risk, do you? And does she?

CC: I don’t run that risk, and apparently she does, because she’s looking for a standing ovation from the U.N. crowd, and maybe looking to get her awarded a Nobel Peace Prize like the President got his. And the only way to do that is to appeal to the U.N. crowd. And the fact is the first job of the president of the United States is to protect the safety and security of the American people. When Jim Comey, the director of the FBI, who has worked now for a Republican president and a Democratic president, looks at Congress and says we cannot guarantee you that these people will be fully vetted when they come into the country, that begins and ends the conversation for me, Hugh. And you know, lots of people made a big deal over the statement I made on your show a couple of weeks ago. The fact is they said well, what is your fear of widows, your fear of widows and orphans, right?

HH: Right.

CC: Well, here we have a woman yesterday who participated as someone whose pledged allegiance to ISIS in the murder of 14 people.

HH: Yup.

CC: So you know, I wonder if the President is going to stand up and call me a tough guy today?

HH: Very well put again.

CC: And say, and insult me again. I mean, you know, the fact is that I know a little bit about this stuff, and the president of the United States should open his ears more and open his mouth less.

HH: The real problem, of course, is that ISIS has a base. Actually, they have two bases now. They have Raqqa, and they have their backup base in Libya, which was undone by Mrs. Clinton and the President. What is it about the inability of this administration to articulate the problem that is most troubling, because I don’t know that the rest of the country has seen with the clarity you’re articulating that we cannot be safe while there is a caliphate functioning?

CC: No, it’s, you’re, to me, the reason the country does not yet understand it, Hugh, is because our leaders haven’t articulated it, because our leaders are hiding it from the American public. And that’s because they don’t trust the American public. I do. I trust the American people to hear the truth. And the truth is that we are in the midst of a world war. And that world war is not going to be like the first or second world war, where it’s going to be nation-states fighting each other. It is radical Islamic jihadist organizations, like Hezbollah, Hamas, ISIS, al Qaeda and others who are attempting to impose upon the rest of the world their religious beliefs through violent acts. We must stand against that by speaking clearly about what it is.

HH: When you say they don’t trust us, do you think they are afraid, genuinely afraid of Americans falling into violence against Muslims, because I’ve been teaching, like you have lots of Muslim constituents, I’ve had lots of Muslim students that have been my friends over 20 years in law school. There is no danger of violence against Muslims of a serious sort in the United States other than a crank or two. And I can’t believe they would distort the entire message in order to worry about those cranks.

CC: No, that’s not my point, Hugh. My point is they don’t trust the American people with this information, because they know if the American people have this information clearly and directly, that they would demand action by their government. They would demand greater surveillance. They would demand greater law enforcement action. They would demand greater action with our allies to put pressure on these organizations where they live and where they breathe. And that’s what they don’t trust, because they don’t want to do that. This is a president who believes inaction is better than action.

HH: So they are afraid of…

CC: And he just wants to get out of the next 13 months…

HH: They are afraid of describing the extent of the threat to the homeland for fear of the requirement that they respond to that threat?

CC: Exactly right. That’s exactly what I mean.

HH: All right, let me turn over, then, to how we respond to Colorado Springs. I had a debate with Nick Kristof last night on CNN where I said I object to placebo proposals. And the Minnesota Gun Owners Alliance has a chart that everything that is offered up by the left in gun control, and this would include Mrs. Clinton’s ambiguous calls for action of an undescribed sort, none of those actions would have prevented any of the past dozen atrocities, including this week’s, including Colorado Springs. Do you agree with that assessment, Chris Christie, that that which the left pushes has absolutely no connection in reality to preventing the attacks upon which they are riding their agenda?

CC: What Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama proposed is cotton candy. It’s cotton candy. It has no meaning to it. It has no relationship to anything that will help to make the body of the country safer or better. And so what they’ve offered up is just things that will make you feel good for a temporary period of time. But it won’t do anything to change the underlying circumstances. Here’s the way we need to do it, Hugh. We need a strong president who will appoint a strong attorney general who would enforce the laws that we have now, and make sure that criminals and those who are mentally ill are dealt with aggressively and forthrightly. For the criminals, they need to be put in jail when they use firearms to commit crimes. And they need to be put in jail for a long time. And we need to have more aggressive laws to be able to treat the mentally ill and involuntarily commit them when they speak of acts of violence. Right now, it’s a patchwork across our country on how this is done. Those are the underlying problems. The things they’re talking about are just feel good headline makers. As I said, it’s just like eating cotton candy. It does nothing good for the body. It just makes you feel good for a couple of minutes.

HH: What do you make of the President’s order to release, I think it’s 6,000, but I could be wrong, I can’t remember the exact number, of people in advance of the end of their sentences?

CC: Outrageous, because there is a process that already allows the release of folks through the parole system, the parole system that leads to pardons. If the President wants to issue pardons, let him issue pardons in the way that pardons are supposed to be issued – in an orderly fashion with a complete review of the record and a complete review of the person’s background and what they’ve done while they’ve been incarcerated. The President doing this type of mass release just makes no sense. It’s indiscriminant, and we need, the President has the ability to pardon. It’s clear in the Constitution. Then use that pardon power in a way that’s smart, and as I use it in New Jersey. We take great care before we pardon anyone in New Jersey, because that power is an awesome power. It wipes away not only any prison sentence or any criminal charge, but any of your record regarding to that charge is wiped away forever. It’s an awesome power. It should be used carefully.

HH: Last two questions, Governor Christie, are political. I was on the Meet The Press panel eight days ago with the Manchester Union Leader’s publisher, who had endorsed you. Then Chuck Todd graciously allowed me to ask him a question, and I asked him about Bridgegate and the 2nd Amendment. And I don’t know if you are happy or sad that I asked such a question, but he responded that you had satisfied him on both. Is that what you’re finding generally in New Hampshire?

CC: Well listen, first off, in New Hampshire, I’m finding no one asking me about Bridgegate. People just consider that to be an open and shut case, vis-à-vis me, because I’ve been an open book about it. There’s been three investigations, two of them by Democratic appointees, the Democratically appointed lawyer for the state legislature, and the Democratically-appointed Obama administration U.S. attorney, neither of which have found any evidence that I was involved in that at all. And so I think most people have just said the Governor did what a leader is supposed to do. If there are people who work for him who do something that is just not in bounds, it does something or is wrong, then he needs to take action. I fired them the day after I found out. And we moved forward and cooperated with every investigation fully and completely, and that’s why I know no one cares about it, because they believe I’ve been honest and forthright about it. And secondly, on the 2nd Amendment, I do get asked about that frequently. And I think my record is a very good one on the 2nd Amendment. Over the course of time, I’ve learned more and more about this issue, especially when I was a prosecutor during those seven years, and it’s really honed my position on this, that the criminals are the folks we need to go after, and that we don’t need to be taking guns away from law-abiding citizens who want to use them for self-defense, for hunting, or for collections.

HH: And the last question goes to polling. Actually, it’s the second to last. CNN poll today says Donald Trump has 36%, Cruz 16%, Carson 14%, Rubio 12%, and you at 4%. What do you make of those numbers?

CC: I don’t know what to make of them, really, Hugh. They change all the time. You know, it looks like, you know, now it looks like Ben Carson and Jeb Bush are on a severe decline. We’re increasing our strength. Ted Cruz seems to be increasing his strength, along with Mr. Trump. Mr. Rubio seems to be, Senator Rubio seems to be kind of stagnant. So you know, the fact is there’s a long way to go in this. But you know from being an experienced watcher of this stuff, that what really matters is what’s going to happen in Iowa on February 1st and New Hampshire on February 9th. That will change those national polls overnight, depending on what the results are. So everybody needs to take a deep breath. We’re going to actually get real voters voting in 60 days in Iowa, and in 68 days in New Hampshire, and then we’re going to really start to know where this race is.

HH: All right, the very last question, yesterday Jon Meacham joined me to discuss his very good biography of George Herbert Walker Bush. There are two pages in that massive book about the selection of David Souter over Edith Jones, probably the most consequential, disastrous mistake of 41’s presidency. How do you avoid that, Chris Christie, because you’re going to, if you’re the president, you’re going to get two, maybe three, maybe four Supreme Court appointments, and I’m unavailable. I’m too old. I want to tell you that right now. But how do you avoid the David…

CC: You’re taking yourself out of the mix, Hugh.

HH: I am. I am. Available for White House Counsel, not available for the Court. How do you avoid a Souter?

CC: Well, listen, the best way that you can avoid it is to get someone with a deep track record showing his or her conservative point of view through writings as a member of a court. And with Souter, we just didn’t have that history at all.

HH: So you wouldn’t mind going to the mat for a dyed in the wool, you know, someone like Edith Jones who’s got a record and it’s written out and everybody knows they are an originalist?

CC: You have to do it on that. And by the way, you know, that’s the way George W. Bush went with Sam Alito, who was one of my predecessors as U.S. attorney in New Jersey and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals judge, and I would say by any measure one of the most clearly, consistent conservative voices on that Court. And if you want to know the kind of people that I would appoint as president of the United States to the Supreme Court, you need to look no further than Sam Alito of New Jersey.

HH: On that note, Governor Christie, I will see you in Las Vegas. Thanks for joining me today on a big news day.

CC: I’m looking forward to it, Hugh, and thank you for having me on today.

HH: Be well.

End of interview.

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