- Doug Mills/The New York Times
- President Trump referred to the suspected New York attacker as “this animal,” saying he was open to sending him to the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
By PETER BAKER
© 2017 New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump touched off a partisan debate over some of the most divisive issues in American life on Wednesday as he cited this week’s terrorist attack in New York to advance his agenda on immigration and national security while assailing Democrats for endangering the country.
Shortly before midnight, the president took it a step further, posting a message on Twitter declaring that the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, should be executed. “NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room,” he wrote, referring to the driver’s reported interest in the Islamic State extremist group. “He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!”
Earlier, Trump pressed Congress to cancel a visa lottery program that allowed Saipov into America, attributing it to Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. He called Democrats “obstructionists” who “don’t want to do what’s right for our country.”
Schumer responded from the floor of the Senate: “President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be bringing us together and focusing on the real solution — antiterrorism funding — which he proposed to cut in his most recent budget.”
Responding to questions by reporters, Trump said he was open to transferring Saipov from civilian courts into the military system set up for foreign terrorists. “I would certainly consider that,” he said at the beginning of a Cabinet meeting.
Asked about the president’s comment on Guantánamo, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, dismissed it as notional, saying that “he wasn’t necessarily advocating for it, but he certainly would support it if he felt like that was the best move.”