Christie Says He Might Back Syrian Refugees With Better Vetting

Christie: Open to Revisiting Syrian Refugee Policy
  • The New Jersey governor has refocused on national security
  • Christie says he supports regime change in Iran, a no-fly zone

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, struggling to reach the top tier of Republican presidential candidates, said he’d be open to revisiting his stance against accepting Syrian refugees if vetting were more complete.

Christie, laying out his stance on fighting terrorism Tuesday in a speech in Washington, said President Barack Obama’s administration hasn’t done enough to assure U.S. governors and citizens that background checks for refugees from the war-torn region are secure enough to guarantee no terrorists will slip through. He called for expanded fingerprint-tracking of all entrants into the U.S., including those admitted on short-term visas.

“When the FBI director tells me he can do it -- then I’ll reconsider,” Christie said at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “That changes the equation. But up until this moment, we don’t have that.”

Christie, 53, has refocused his run for the 2016 Republican nomination on tough national-security talk in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks. He’s betting that a campaign fought on the terrain of national security favors him as a former federal prosecutor who once secured convictions against terrorists plotting to kill soldiers on a New Jersey military base.

Even as Christie spoke, Obama was holding a joint press conference at the White House with French President Francois Hollande, where they pledged a redoubled effort against Islamic State terrorists.

Saying that “America is strengthened by people of every faith and every background,” Obama said, “Refugees coming to America go through up to two years of intense security checks, including biometric screening. Nobody who sets foot in America goes through more screening than refugees.”

In early voting New Hampshire, a state crucial to Christie’s campaign strategy, more than half of voters in recent polls said they view him favorably. The most recent survey in that state, though, had him as the top choice of just 4 percent of the party’s voters.

Since the attacks in Paris, Christie has called for regime change in Iran, greater use of force against Islamic State and creating a security zone for people driven from their homes in the conflict against the group. At home, he’s denounced encrypted communications and called for a return to the lapsed collection of metadata that he said allows law enforcement to track terrorists.

In Christie’s address to the foreign-policy organization, which stretched more than an hour, he also voiced support for invoking Article 5 of the NATO charter -- which declares an attack on one member state is an attack on all -- in the wake of the Paris attacks.

While Christie said Obama has pursued “political correctness” over keeping the U.S. safe, the governor said he doesn’t espouse a return to isolationism.

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