By Brenda Flanagan
“The rollout of this executive order was terrible,” said Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie praised the president’s good intentions, but strongly criticized the Trump administration’s travel ban — both its broad scope and its poor implementation.
“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. “It should be based, in my view, on intelligence information not on generalizations and the president deserved much better than he got on the rollout of this plan. And I think that’s what caused a lot of the mistakes that were made and those mistakes are unacceptable.”
Christie’s comments followed deep concerns expressed by imams at New Jersey’s Muslim Outreach Committee meeting today. They said their congregations feel targeted and afraid, and called on Christie to break his silence.
“Time is impacting the lives of these people — the people we represent. We are leaders representing the Muslim community and the Muslim community would like to know what their government leaders think about what is taking place in their lives,” said Imam W. Deen Shareef, convener for the New Jersey Council of Imams.
“This is an extremely serious matter. I mean, it’s outrageous, but it’s dangerous. Coming from the top, it’s extremely dangerous because what’s the next step? Are you going to have a list? And also the surveillance? Are you going to have the surveillance?” asked Imam Mustafa El-Amin, Masjid Ibrahim Community, Newark.
Christie said he will be discussing the issue with his Attorney General Chris Porrino. About 16 other state attorneys general — mostly Democrats, the governor pointed out — called the executive order unconstitutional. Christie blames Trump’s staff for the chaos.
“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 you don’t have the mistakes and the confusion and the anger we saw over the weekend,” Christie said.
The governor took questions from the press for the first time in months ranging over a number of topics, including how the new president’s doing.
“Listen, I think the president in the main is doing what he said he was going to do,” Christie said. “Gosh you know one of the things that I think is just kind of amusing to watch is just how intense the coverage has been in the first 10 or 11 days. I don’t think either of you — the press or the administration — is going to be able to maintain this pace.”
On school funding, the governor said recent legislative hearings to fix the aid formula evolved because of his proposal for a fair funding plan.
“Maybe that’s because I proposed the fairness formula. Now all of a sudden they have an appetite? You know what? The governor is a human starting gun. And sometimes that’s the way you have to use the office,” he said.
Christie’s comments came after he met with clients at Newark’s Renaissance House — an addiction treatment center. He said the state Department of Health would issue a certificate of need for new adult acute care beds. He expressed hope Congress won’t cut Medicaid block grants when they revamp Obamacare.
“We have a huge opioid crisis. I’d like to have the flexibility to spend more Medicaid money on treatment. I don’t have that flexibility now because every time I want to spend a dollar differently, I get ‘Mother, may I?’” Christie said.
As for the president’s travel ban, Christie said he’s probably not going to call Trump up to discuss it. He says, “This is new territory for me. He’s not Donald Trump any more. He’s the president.”