Christie: Rand stands with 'criminal' Snowden

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) is taking aim at likely 2016 rival Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulA Senator Gary Johnson could be good not just for Libertarians, but for the Senate too Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE (R-Ky.) for opposing renewal of the Patriot Act, accusing him of siding with “criminal” leaker Edward Snowden.

Christie, a possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate, slammed Paul and Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEx-college classmate accuses Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Reexamining presidential power over national monuments MORE (R-Utah) for their vocal push to end the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency that Snowden exposed to the world by releasing classified documents.

“He’s a criminal; he’s a criminal, and he’s hiding in Russia, and he’s lecturing to us about the evils of authoritarian government while he lives under the protective umbrella of Vladimir Putin?” Christie said of Snowden on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends.”

“That’s who Mike Lee and Rand Paul are siding with — with Edward Snowden?” he added. “Come on.”

Christie’s attacks come as the Senate searches for a last-minute compromise to preserve sections of the Patriot Act that are scheduled to expire on Sunday at midnight.

The New Jersey governor argued on Wednesday that senators like Lee and Paul did not understand what intelligence capabilities the NSA would lose without a deal taking place.

“I agree with the folks in the intelligence community who have kept us safe for the last 14 years since 9/11,” Christie said.

“And the fact is, all the different people expressing opinions on this in the Senate right now, none of them have used the Patriot Act; none of them have prosecuted terrorists — I have,” said Christie, a former U.S. attorney in New Jersey after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“They talk about it from a speculative perspective,” he added. 

“I talk about it from a real-life perspective, and that’s why I feel like I have to speak out on this because nobody else that’s in this national conversation right now has the practical experience that I’ve had.”

Christie has long sparred with Lee and Paul over the NSA’s intelligence gathering methods and their implications for privacy.

Paul, a 2016 presidential candidate, has made curtailing the NSA’s bulk, warrantless collection of metadata from Americans’ phone records one of his campaign issues.

Christie dismissed Paul and his ally Lee on Wednesday for avoiding a meaningful debate with him over the issue.

“That’s typical of what they do in Washington, D.C.,” Christie said.

“When you don’t know something about what you’re talking about, you then change the conversation,” he said.

“We can protect our civil liberties and protect the homeland,” Christie added. “We’ve been doing it now for 14 years.”