Presidential Race 2016 Candidate Profile – Chris Christie, R

The presidential race for 2016 is gearing up and candidates are preparing themselves for the upcoming campaign. As each candidate announces their intention to run, Clarion Project will provide a summary of each candidate’s positions on issues relating to Islamic extremism in order to help our readers make the most informed possible choice on election day. Should there be any significant changes, we intend to update our readers on the positions of any given candidate.

As Clarion is a bipartisan organization, we will not be endorsing any party or any candidate. All information provided is intended as informative only and should not be taken as evidence of Clarion’s preference for any given candidate.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on June 30, 2015. The following is the Clarion Project's compilation of Governor Christie's positions on Islamist extremism. It will be updated as the campaign develops.

 

Relevant Experience

  • U.S. Attorney for New Jersey (2001-2008)
  • Two-term Governor of New Jersey (2010-Current)
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  • View of Islamism and Foreign Policy

Supports democracy-promotion and rejects isolationism; criticizes the Obama Administration's record on promoting freedom abroad. 

Domestic Islamists

  • Prosecuted Islamist radicals as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, including six suspected terrorists who sought to attack Fort Dix and Mazen Mokhtar, a founder and board member of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, a coalition of Islamist groups with links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
    • Mokhtar is also the Executive Director of the Muslim American Society, which federal prosecutors said in 2008 was "founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America."
    • Mokhtar was under investigation for suspected ties to terrorism since at least 2004 and was arrested in 2007 for alleged tax fraud. 
    • Christie dismissed the indictment in 2008 because "further prosecution is not in the interests of the United States at this time." No further information is available.
  • In July 2006, the Department of Homeland Security began deportation proceedings against Imam Mohammad Qatanani for lying on his green card about being convicted by Israel as a member of the Hamas terrorist group.
    • A 2008 DHS court filing states, "“It is certainly suspicious when a person who has been convicted of being a member of, and providing services, to Hamas, who has personal ties to a Hamas militant leader, and a Hamas fundraiser also sends undisclosed cash to the West Bank."
    • Despite the trial, Christie praised him in September 2008 as Christie prepared to run for governor as a "man of great goodwill." 
    • Christie's Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna was also a character witness for Qatanani during the trial. Christie later appointed McKenna as the director of the N.J. Office of Homeland Security. 
    • The immigration judge granted Qatanani permanent residency, but the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the ruling. The trial remains in limbo. 
    • In 2011, Christie appointed Sohail Mohammed, Qatanani's attorney, to the N.J. Superior Court of Passaic County. Mohammed had a history of defending Islamist terror suspects like Sami Al-Arian and the Holy Land Foundation and also was the general counsel of the American Muslim Union, a group with very close ties to Qatanani and his Hamas-linked mosque. 
    • Christie responded to criticism of the appointment with, "This Sharia Law business is crap. It's just crazy. And I'm tired of dealing with the crazies. I mean, you know, it's just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of thigns just because of his religious background."
    • On July 24, 2012, Qatanani attended an Iftar dinner at the Governor's Mansion. Video footage showed that Christie pointed out Qatanani in the audience, saying "I'm glad to have you here." He called him a "friend" that "has attempted to be a force for good in his community."
  • Christie said his relationship with his state's Muslim community is being criticized because of a "gaze of intolerance that's going around our country that is disturbing."
    • ?"These are the kind of red herrings that people put up who are bigots, who want to judge people based upon their religious beliefs, want to judge people with a broad brush," he said.
  • In July 2014, Christie said he stands by his words of praise of Qatanani "as they apply to the immediate aftermath of 9/11," saying that the Hamas-tied imam was helpful in reaching out to the Muslim community.
  • In 2012, the Clarion Project broke the story that four known Islamists were on Christie's Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa's Muslim Outreach Committee, including Qatanani. Christie appointed Chiesa as interim Senator before Senator Booker was elected.
    • ?In September 2013, the Clarion Project discovered that the four Islamists included an additional fifth problematic figure who remained on the Muslim Outreach Committee approximately one year after the initial expose of their troubling backgrounds. 
    • Documents from the Attorney General's office showed that the Muslim Outreach Committee were briefed by top law enforcement officials on "Homeland Security Grants for Non-Profit Organizations" and State Police outreach training.
  • In September 2013, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity linked to Hamas and a designated terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates, honored Christie for his "outstanding contributions to pushing back against Islamophobic trends."

Intelligence-Gathering

  • Supports the Patriot Act and the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records. He argues that he used the programs to prosecute terrorists as U.S. Attorney and they do not violate civil liberties.

Cyber Threat

Retaliate to cyber attacks with cyber attacks of our own that include releasing incriminating information to the population about the government responsible.

Iran

  • Opposes the nuclear deal with Iran but won't pledge to scrap it if he becomes President. He said he would need to consider the situation and the positions of international partners at that time.
    • ?"I’m not one of those guys who’s going to say to you, ‘on Day One I will abrogate the agreement…On Day One, I will look into it and try to decide, depending upon where we are at that moment.”
    • “If I’m saddled with the deal as president, then on the first day I’ll be saying to my national security advisor, to my Secretary of State and to my head of national intelligence: give me all the information I need to let me know all the options I have to try to put this genie back in the bottle, and then we’ll make a decision."
  • Says a nuclear-armed Iran would be "an existential threat to Israel, to America and to world civilization itself."
  • Pledged not to have deals or meetings with those who chant "Death to America," apparently taking diplomacy with Iran off the table. 

 

Islamic State, Iraq and Syria

Embed U.S. troops with the Iraqi security forces down to the battalion level.

  • U.S. should openly consider sending combat troops to fight the Islamic State. 
  • U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein was a mistake in hindsight.

 

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.