- Thomson Reuters
- Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that the suspect behind Tuesday’s terror attack in New York City should get the death penalty. Trump previously called the justice system “a joke” and said he would consider sending the suspect to Guantanamo Bay. The president’s tweet could actually jeopardize the legal case against the suspect.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday called for the death penalty for the man suspected of carrying out the deadly terrorist attack in New York City.
“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!” Trump tweeted late Wednesday night.
The tweet comes one day after 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov steered a truck into cyclists and pedestrians down a Manhattan bike path before being shot and taken into police custody. On Wednesday, Trump called for harsh punishment for Saipov, describing the US justice system as “a joke and a laughing stock” and saying he was considering sending the suspect to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
But Wednesday night’s tweet was a startling escalation of rhetoric in legal proceedings that have barely begun, let alone led to a sentence. Federal prosecutors filed terrorism charges against the suspect, an Uzbeki immigrant, on Wednesday.
Law-enforcement officials who spoke to Saipov on Wednesday said the suspect told them he was “proud” of his actions and requested a flag of the Islamic State to hang in his hospital room, a detail Trump referenced in his tweet.
Moments after the tweet, political observers and ethics experts criticized the president for possibly jeopardizing a potential legal case against Saipov. Trump’s comments have played into legal cases before – just this week, a military judge said he would likely opt for a lighter sentence for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his Army post and was captured by the Taliban in 2009, in light of Trump’s past suggestions that he should be executed.
“Mr. President, we all know he should get the death penalty. But when *you* say it, it makes it harder for DOJ to make that happen,” tweeted Andrew McCarthy, the former assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“This is called potentially tainting jury pool & could impact alleged perpetrator’s ability to secure fair trial,” national security lawyer Mark Zaid said.