Trump backs down on sending NYC terror suspect to Guantánamo

President Trump on Thursday backed off the possibility of sending the New York City terror suspect to the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But the commander in chief reiterated his call for the 29-year-old suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, to be executed.

“Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system… …There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!”

Trump made a similar denouncement late Wednesday night, tweeting that Saipov “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!”

Saipov is accused of driving a truck into a bike path in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring a dozen more. After fleeing the vehicle while brandishing what police said were fake weapons, he was shot and apprehended by the NYPD. Authorities said Saipov was inspired by the so-called Islamic State, and he was charged with providing support to a terrorist organization as well as violence and destruction of a motor vehicle.

Trump on Wednesday publicly mulled the idea of sending Saipov to Guantánamo, a move backed by Republican foreign policy hawks like Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who wanted to treat Saipov as an enemy combatant. No terror suspect detained in the U.S. has been sent to the military prison since 9/11.

The president’s tweets could also complicate the federal case against Saipov.

As the New York Times reported on Thursday: “Presidents are typically advised never to weigh in on pending criminal cases because such comments can be used by defense lawyers to argue that their clients cannot get a fair trial — especially when the head of the executive branch that will prosecute the charges advocates the ultimate punishment before a judge has heard a single shred of evidence at trial.”

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