New jersey Governor Chris Christie joined me today to discuss the Iran “deal”:
HH: I’m joined now by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Governor Christie, welcome, it’s great to talk to you.
CC: Happy to be back, Hugh, thanks for having me.
HH: What did you make of the President’s press conference?
CC: Well, the President lied, Hugh. He lied to the American people. He put his entire support of this agreement, as you heard yesterday, on verification. We’re not trusting anybody, and he said that we have 24/7 access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and that we could inspect anytime, anywhere. Every reading of this agreement shows that all Iran has to do to stop inspections is ask. And then imagine this, only a Democrat could do this. It goes to an arbitration panel where Iran has a vote, and it could take up to 24 days for that decision. Well, by the time they get the decision, even if it’s in our favor, they’re going to be cheating like crazy, and they’re going to move the cheating to another facility, and they’ll play hide the ball with us for the next ten years.
HH: Governor Christie, I want to play for you the most talked about minute of the press conference. It’s an exchange between CBS’ Major Garrett and the President. You’ve taken a lot of tough questions. Let’s listen to this and get your reaction, cut number six:
MG: Mr. President, as you well know, there are four Americans in Iran, three held on trumped up charges, according to your administration, and one whereabouts unknown. Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans? And last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said under no circumstances should there be any relief for Iran in terms of ballistic missiles or conventional weapons. It is perceived that that was a last minute capitulation in these negotiations. Many in the Pentagon feel you’ve left the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hung out to dry. Could you comment?
BO: I’ve got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions. The notion that I am content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails? Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better.
HH: What do you think of that, Governor Christie?
CC: I mean, if you wanted those Americans out of the jail, then you say I’m not signing an agreement until you release our people to us. And given that they’re under the weight of heavy sanctions, they release the Americans if they knew that it was a condition upon which we wouldn’t sign this deal. And he didn’t even address in the clip that you just played the fact that he’s gone against the advice of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by capitulating on the issue of ballistic missiles, which by the way are only going to be used to deliver nuclear warheads to faraway places like the United States. I mean, this is such an outrageous agreement, and the worst part of it, though, again, Hugh, is that the President is not telling the American people the truth. He knows this is a bad deal, and he’s not telling the American people the truth about it. And that’s the thing that drives me crazy.
HH: The deal also includes a pledge that the United States will help Iran thwart Israeli sabotage of its nuclear facilities. And that did not come up, but I find it impossible that anyone would vote for a deal that will pledge the United States to interdict Israeli intelligence efforts to protect their own country.
CC: You know, almost nothing at this point, Hugh, would shock me as being part of this agreement. And let’s be very clear. And I said this yesterday in my statement after the agreement. This is now Congress’ role. We have separation of powers and checks and balances for a reason. And if he has gone as out of control as he has here, and made an agreement that is not in our national security interests, that Congress has an obligation to stop him. And this is not a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats together should come together and say Mr. President, go back to the table and do better. We’re not going to permit you to do this. And we’re offended by the fact that you’re lying to the American people on verification.
HH: Now one of the things my audience will be interested in, if you are president, Israel will ask for, among other things, the F-35, the F-18 Growler, maybe some of our B-52s from the boneyard which can be retrofitted and made strategic again. They probably would ask for the technology for the B-2 and the F-22, which are no longer in production, but which we have the technology for. Would you give them any or all of those weapon systems in order to protect themselves against a fully-armed and near-nuclear Iran, Governor Christie?
CC: The protection of the state of Israel has to be a top priority of the president of the United States of America. It has to be a top priority. And so what I would do as president is immediately meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and try to repair this relationship that this president has so callously broken. And all those issues would be on the table for discussion with the Israeli prime minister based upon what his needs were at the time, demonstrated needs, to protect the state of Israel and its citizens.
HH: But we’ve only sold, for example, the Growler has only gone to Australia, I believe. Will we have at least, if any country gets it, Israel gets it rules under a Christie administration?
CC: Israel has to be given top priority in terms of national security protection, Hugh, and that’s exactly what I’d do in sitting down and talking with Prime Minister Netanyahu, to make sure that he understood that he once again had a friend in the Oval Office.
HH: Now there was a question for the president today about the consequences of this deal, which is another stunner, number one, please.
CC: With this deal, we have the possibility of peacefully resolving a major threat to regional and international security. Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs.
HH: Now Governor Christie, other countries in the region are going to pursue their own nuclear programs because of this deal. But putting aside the President’s detachment from reality, how will you argue to the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Gulf states that they don’t need nuclear weapons when Iran has this deal in hand.
CC: It’s very hard to make that argument, because right now, those, and the Emirates as well, they have to be enormously concerned about the fact that they’ve been America’s ally in this battle against Iran, and that America seemingly now has abandoned them while abandoning Israel at the same time. And so I think it’s a very hard argument for the next president, but one that the next president’s going to have to make, but in the context of a renewed, reinvigorated foreign policy in the Middle East which makes clear that Iran and its support of terrorism, and its agitation in the region, cannot be tolerated. And so it has to be part of a larger context, Hugh. If you just make it on its own, I don’t think they would do it. But you have to make it in the context of a new relationship with these folks after the disastrous Obama years.
HH: Hillary owns this deal, doesn’t she?
CC: Yes, she does. Secretary Clinton has supported this deal wholeheartedly. This foreign policy is her foreign policy. She owns the disaster of the first term, and she now owns the biggest lie of the second term, which is that this deal can be verified. It can’t be under the conditions of this deal with was cut by her patron, Barack Obama.
HH: She’s trying to move the campaign off of these issues. She’s trying to move it to Donald Trump. She’s trying to move it to income inequality. She’s attacking Uber, for goodness sake. Does that work? Does national security, which is always a hard sell to the average American who’s worried about their job, stay front and center in this era?
CC: I think it can, Hugh, because remember something. America has never, never taken out of balance the balance of power we’ve had on the nuclear deterrent for the last 70 years, this president is now turned it on its head, which means that America is a much more vulnerable place today than it was before the president signed that agreement. When the American people believe that their national security is threatened, they get focused on those issues. And I think unfortunately for Mrs. Clinton, they’re going to be focused on the fact that she has played an enormous role in making America more vulnerable.
HH: So Governor Christie, if this election’s going to be about national security, we’ve got 16 Republicans in the race. Lots of them have claims to national security. You know, Governor Perry and Senator Graham have both served in the uniform, but I’m not sure that that’s going to matter so much. How do you stack up against the other 15 candidates on national security issues?
CC: Hugh, I’m the only person in this race who has actually fought terrorism right where it starts. As United States Attorney for New Jersey, I was appointed by President Bush on September 10th, 2001. And the fact is that the next day, my state lost more people than any other state in this country other than the state of New York. And I’m the only one who has investigated, prosecuted and convicted terrorists that’ll be on that stage who has worked under the Patriot Act, that has worked with the Foreign Intelligence Court, and that knows that the nature and the details of how to do this. And I think that puts me on a par or better than anybody who’s standing on the stage as an announced candidate right now.
HH: So if Iran turns out to be cheating, and I’ve got to play, I’ve got to play you one more clip of the President, because it’s so astonishing, cut number four for Governor Christie.
BO: You know, there are only so many uranium mines in Iran. And if in fact we’re counting the amount of uranium that’s being mined, and suddenly some’s missing on the back end, they’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.
HH: This is so mind-bogglingly stupid that I’m embarrassed to ask you. But would you aske them to ‘splain, Mr. Christie? Or would you use military force or other weapons of displomacy that are more vigorous than asking them to ‘splain?
CC: Yeah, you have to, listen, the President has this phony snapback provision in there, which is another one of the illusions of this agreement. And the fact that you have to put every tool that the president has at his disposal on the table to make sure that we stop Iranian cheating. And the unfortunate thing about this, Hugh, is he’s taken so many of those tools off the table through his concessions and his capitulation in the course of these negotiations that he’s going to leave the next president with less, fewer alternatives than we would have had without this agreement.
HH: Last question, you’ve got Cory Booker as your colleague in the service of New Jersey, Democrat. I expect Senator Menendez to vote against this deal, but Cory Booker probably will vote with the President. What’s your, are you going to try to lobby him to vote against this deal?
CC: Of course.
HH: And do you expect the people of New Jersey to hammer him to vote against this deal?
CC: Listen, I think the people of new Jersey will feel very clearly, as I do, and as Senator Menendez does on this, which is this is a bad deal for the national security of the United States, and this is a bad deal, a very bad deal for the security of Israel. When both of those things are present, I don’t think you’ll see the patriots in New Jersey wanting to have their Senator vote any other way but no on this deal.
HH: Governor Chris Christie, thanks for joining me on a busy day. Congratulations on getting an endorsement today, by the way. That’s big news.
CC: Thank you. It’s great to have the support of Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, and we’re just going to keep grinding away on this race, talking about the important issues, Hugh. Thanks for giving me a chance to do that.
HH: Thank you for joining us.
End of interview.