Hours after the New York City terror suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, was charged for an attack in lower Manhattan that killed 8 people and injured 12 others, U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to condemn the suspect and called on the death penalty.
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This action breaks with a long tradition of U.S. presidents refraining from making recommendations for ongoing legal proceedings, which most see as outside the president’s authority.
NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 2 de noviembre de 2017
In recommending the death penalty, experts argue, prosecutors will have a much harder time moving forward with this proposal.
"Mr. President, we all know he should get the death penalty. But when *you* say it, it makes it harder for DOJ (Department of Justice) to make that happen," wrote Andrew McCarthy, former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney, on his personal Twitter account.
Mark Zaid, a National Security lawyer, commented that Trump’s death penalty tirade could constitute "potentially tainting a jury pool" and could give Saipov a solid defense in claiming that the president’s statements would breach a guarantee to a free and fair trial.
Saipov allegedly asked authorities to hang an Islamic State group flag in his hospital room, according to court documents, which Trump referenced in a tweet, concluding with "SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!" in all capital letters.
Trump also floated the idea of sending Saipov to the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison, which has been notorious for extra-judicial punishment, including torture.
Trump’s press secretary stated that the administration considers Saipov to be an "enemy combatant", which would subject Saipov to harsher prosecution and enhanced methods of interrogation.
"We have to come up with punishment that's far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now," Trump said in a press conference.
As The Telegraph notes, Trump has been a vocal advocate for the death penalty for a very long time. In 1989, Trump took out a full page ad in the New York Daily News calling for the state of New York to reinstate the death penalty after a jogger was brutally beaten and raped in upper Manhattan’s Central Park.
“They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes,”an excerpt from the ad read.
Capitalizing on the opportunity, Trump attacked pro-immigration political opponents, including New York Senator, Chuck Schumer.
The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1 de noviembre de 2017
"The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based," Trump said in a tweet. "We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter)," he continued in a following tweet.
Trump, who has repeatedly blamed immigrants for woes in the United States, referred to Saipov’s entry into the U.S. 7 years ago that was issued via the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.
In response to this revelation, which was confirmed by the Department of Homeland Security, Trump called on the visa program to be "merit based", indicating that it is presently a "lottery" system, and blaming the suspect’s entry into the U.S. on Schumer.
Schumer responded in a tweet: "I guess it's not too soon to politicize a tragedy."
"The president's tweets, I think, were not helpful," responded New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference. "I don't think they were factual. I think they tended to point fingers and politicize the situation."