Pass the blame around
It was the worst terrorist atrocity on U.S. soil since Donald Trump became president, and his anger and frustration didn’t stop with ISIS and the “animal” who mowed down people with a truck on a lower Manhattan bicycle path.
Set off by commentaries on “Fox & Friends,” he typed out tweets attacking Democrats, especially Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty,” said one. “We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems,” said another.
Then, at a Cabinet meeting, he fulminated that punishment won’t come fast enough.
“We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock,” Trump said (video here).
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later insisted Trump wasn’t blaming Schumer or “going the political route” and would “love to work with” him on “extreme vetting.” She also denied he said what he said about a “joke” and “laughingstock.” See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Schumer responded on Twitter to accuse Trump of “politicizing & dividing America which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy.” The contrast, he said, “couldn’t be starker” between Trump and the leadership after 9/11 of former President George W. Bush, who “understood the meaning of his high office & sought to bring our country together.”
Schumer also said Trump “should be focusing on the real solution — anti-terrorism funding — which he proposed to cut in his most recent budget.
Wailing for 'death'
Trump tweeted late Wednesday that Sayfullo Saipov "SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!" after seeing news reports about the alleged attacker's lack of remorse. He also played to emotion by calling Saipov an "animal" and "enemy combatant."
Which undoubtedly reflects the feelings of many, if not most, citizens. Coming from the protected perch of the White House, however, his words could play into the hands of defense lawyers by tainting potential jury pools, thus actually weakening prosecution.
The diversity lottery explained
Back to immigration: When he was a House member, Schumer pushed for the lottery program, passed with bipartisan support, as part of the Immigration Act of 1990 that created visa slots from countries that had low admission rates. At the time, it opened up a legal path for recent Irish immigrants who had overstayed their visas.
More recently, Schumer was part of a bipartisan Senate effort in 2013 to end the program as part of a broader immigration overhaul, which died in the House. Two of his Republican partners on the bill, Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, confirmed that Tuesday.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), usually a Trump defender, said on CNN the program “has gotten good people into this country.” On “the issue of terrorism,” said King, Schumer has “been a strong ally.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.) said of Trump’s Schumer-bashing: “It’s probably not the time to be attacking the native son of the city where the attack occurred.”
The take-away: Targeting terror
Saipov is not the first immigrant from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia to be arrested for terrorism in the United States. Up to now, those countries have not had a high profile in the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict immigration from mostly Muslim countries, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Just last Friday, an Uzbek citizen and green card holder named Abdurasul Juraboev was sentenced to 15 years in federal court in Brooklyn for conspiring to provide material support to ISIS. The Tsarnaev brothers who carried out the 2013 Boston Marathon attacks, came from Kyrgyzstan.
Ticket to Gitmo?
Trump said he would “certainly consider” sending the accused killer to the U.S. terrorist detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Such a move was advocated by Graham and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who also called for Saipov to be designated an “enemy combatant” with no Miranda rights. Sanders said the White House considered the suspect an “enemy combatant.”
For now, the case is being handled in a civilian court. Federal prosecutors say Saipov waived his Miranda rights and spoke with them about how he planned the Tuesday attack.
Tax fight fallback
New York Republican lawmakers said they sent a proposal to House leaders Wednesday that would retain full property tax deductions and partial deductions for state income taxes in the tax overhaul that is scheduled to be unveiled Thursday.
“The alternatives include retaining the full property tax deduction and protecting the most significant elements of the income tax deduction,” said King, who led the effort with Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Rep. Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island).
The current GOP plan would cap deductions at $10,000 for property taxes entirely and eliminate deductions for sales and state income taxes. See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.
What else is happening
- A "digital hit list" exposed by accident offers "the most detailed forensic evidence yet of the close alignment" between pro-Trump, anti-Clinton hackers in the 2016 election and the Russian government, the Associated Press reports.
- Trump called Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday afternoon, almost 24 hours after the terrorist attack, to pledge the federal government’s full support. Both New York officials earlier criticized Trump’s tweets against Schumer.
- Trump’s lawyers argued in a court filing that he was expressing a “political opinion” — not defaming anyone — when he called women who accused him of sexual misconduct “horrible, horrible liars.” Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” is suing Trump for defamation.
- The House Intelligence Committee released a trove of ads that Russian operatives bought on Facebook last year to promote Trump, slam Hillary Clinton and stoke divisions on social issues. Said one: “Satan: ‘If I Win Clinton Wins!’ Jesus: ‘Not If I Can Help It!’ ”
- Trump called a New York Times reporter to dispute a Washington Post report that he said wrongly depicted him as angry at everybody over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. “I’m actually not angry at anybody,” Trump said. He said of being president: “I’m really enjoying it.”
- George Papadopolous, the former Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is one of at least three Trump aides or allies who sought to acquire Russia’s “dirt” on Clinton, including hacked emails, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reported.
- Trump’s opioid crisis commission called for more drug courts to divert abusers to treatment instead of prison, more training for doctors and penalties for insurers that dodge covering addiction treatment.