Trump defends decision to charge NYC terror suspect in federal court

Trump defends decision to charge NYC terror suspect in federal court
© Getty Images
President Trump on Thursday appeared to rule out the possibility of sending the suspect in the New York City terror attack to the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, one day after saying the man should be sent to the controversial facility. 
 
In a string of early morning tweets, Trump said that Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek national living legally in the U.S., should be tried in a civilian court and executed because the military justice system works too slowly. 
 
“Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system,” the president tweeted. 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
“There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed," he added. "Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!” 
 
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s deadly attack, Trump called for a “tougher” response to terrorism. But his mixed signals about how the New York suspect should be handled could affect Saipov's court case. 
 
Trump on Wednesday denounced the U.S. justice system’s handling of terror suspects and immigration violations as a “joke” and a “laughingstock” and called for “far quicker” punishments for "animals" like Saipov.
 
“They'll go through court for years,” Trump told reporters at the White House. "And at the end, they'll be — who knows what happens. We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now.”
 
Trump then said he would “certainly consider” sending Saipov to the Guantánamo Bay prison, which has long been the subject of international condemnation. 
 
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said that Trump views the suspect as an “enemy combatant,” but was noncommittal about any plans to send him to Guantánamo. 
 
Federal prosecutors in New York later on Wednesday virtually closed off the possibility of transferring Saipov to the detention center when they filed terrorism charges against him. 
 
That means it is all but certain he will be tried in a civilian court. 
 
But Trump again roiled the case when he tweeted late Wednesday night that Saipov should be executed for his actions. 
 
“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!” he wrote, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 
 
Legal experts worried that the president’s comments could taint a jury pool in a potential trial of Saipov, which could make it more difficult for prosecutors to secure a conviction. 
 
Some drew parallels to then-President Nixon’s declaration in August 1970 that Charles Manson “was guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason” while he was still on trial. 
 
Nixon was forced to walk back his statement, later saying that “the last thing I would do is prejudice the legal rights of any person, in any circumstances.”
 
Trump, however, has doubled down on his belief that Saipov should receive the death penalty.