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Christie, Paul have epic clash at debate

New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort NJ governor's approval rating slips to 57 percent: poll Never underestimate Joe Biden MORE got into a verbal brawl over government surveillance with Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP lawmaker calls for Wuhan probe to 'prevent the next pandemic' All congressional Democrats say they have been vaccinated: CNN Fauci on Rand Paul: 'I just don't understand what the problem is with him' MORE (Ky.) on Thursday evening during the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 cycle.

The two began yelling over each other about the National Security Agency (NSA), with Paul fiercely criticizing Christie’s call for the government to increase the powers of U.S. intelligence agencies.

“I want to collect more records from terrorists but less records from innocent Americans,” said Paul, the Senate’s most prominent libertarian.

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That’s a “completely ridiculously answer,” responded Christie, a former U.S. attorney who pursued cases using powers under the Patriot Act. “How are you supposed to know?”

“You support the Fourth Amendment!” Paul yelled in response. “Get a warrant! Get a judge to sign a warrant!”

“You fundamentally misunderstand the Bill of Rights,” Paul said. “Every time you filed a case, you got a warrant from a judge.”

“I don’t trust [President] Obama with our records,” the Kentucky lawmaker added. “I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, you go right ahead.”

Christie blasted Paul for taking an academic tone on the issue, contrasting that to his time in the field pursuing terrorists.

“When you’re sitting in a subcommittee just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like this,” Christie charged.  

“You know the hugs that I remember: the hugs that I gave to the people who lost their families on Sept. 11, and those had nothing to do with politics, unlike what you’re doing,” he added, referring to Paul having temporarily killed a portion of the Patriot Act earlier this year, which his presidential campaign promoted heavily.

The harsh words highlighted the sharp divide between the hawkish and libertarian wings of the Republican Party. While much of the party appears to have sided with Christie and is supportive of a robust national security apparatus, a younger crop of Republicans publicly oppose the scope of the U.S. national security establishment.