GOP chairman presses Trump admin for details on suspected New York attacker

GOP chairman presses Trump admin for details on suspected New York attacker
© Getty

The GOP chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday wrote a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke and Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe West must deter aggression from tyrants better than it did last century Hillicon Valley — Blinken unveils new cyber bureau at State Blinken formally announces new State Department cyber bureau MORE requesting information about the suspect in Tuesday's terrorist attack in Manhattan that killed eight people.

In the letter, Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (R-Iowa) requested information about 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov and more information on the visa program he used to enter the country in 2010 when he immigrated from Uzbekistan.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Did Sayfullo Saipov apply for any U.S. visa? If the answer is yes, what category of visa was sought? Which embassy or consulate did he submit the application to? If the visa was denied, what was the basis for denial?" Grassley asks in the letter.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Trump sparred with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure Voting rights and Senate wrongs MORE (D-N.Y.) over the Diversity Visa Lottery program, which reportedly allowed Saipov to enter the country.

Trump attempted to blame Saipov’s entry on Schumer. Republican Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCruz to get Nord Stream 2 vote as part of deal on Biden nominees Democrats threaten to play hardball over Cruz's blockade Rubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees MORE (R-Ariz.) then weighed in, noting that the 2013 "Gang of Eight" immigration reforms, written in part by Schumer, actually would have eliminated the program.

Grassley also requested that Homeland Security officials answer as to whether Saipov had been placed on any terrorist watch lists prior to the attack. In his letter, Grassley notes that Saipov reportedly left a note at the scene pledging himself to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"Officials also said that handwritten notes in Arabic were found near the truck that indicated allegiance to ISIS," Grassley wrote. "Was Sayfullo Saipov on any terrorist watch lists? If so, which lists and which dates was he on the lists?" 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said earlier Wednesday that all indications point to Saipov being a "lone wolf"-style attacker who was inspired by ISIS.

"The investigation is ongoing," Cuomo said, "[but] the best evidence we have is that he was a 'lone wolf' model. They're going through social media to see what connections he may have had, there are very few interactions with law enforcement; he was a truck driver."

Grassley's list of questions for Duke include a request for any of Saipov's criminal convictions, but Cuomo said Wednesday that Saipov only had minor traffic violations on his record, at least in New York.

"He had some vehicular violations, state police actually helped him get his truck out of a ditch at one time," Cuomo added. "But there's no evidence now that it was part of a larger conspiracy, larger plot."