President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that Sayfullo Saipov, the primary suspect in the the New York terror attack should be put to death, immediately triggering complaints about political interference in the justice system.
“NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12,” Trump wrote, making reference to the driver’s reported interest in the extremist group Islamic State.
“SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!”
According to The New York Times, the suspect in the Halloween evening attack has been charged with federal terrorism offenses in Tuesday’s attack that left eight dead. The charges included providing material support to ISIS, violence and destruction of motor vehicles said Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The concern is now that the possible upcoming federal trial may be prejudiced by the president’s suggestion of a sentence.
“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 C. McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Earlier in the day, President Trump seemed to criticize the American criminal justice system for not acting fast enough, calling it “a joke” and “a laughing stock,” and finished up by suggesting he was open to sending “this animal” to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Presidents – in fact, elected officials pretty much everywhere – tend not to weigh in on ongoing cases, to stop defense lawyers arguing that their clients can’t get a fair trial. However, this is not the first time Trump has neglected such advice.
In June of last year, Senate Republicans warned Donald Trump to drop his criticisms of a Latino judge presiding over a lawsuit against the now-defunct Trump University.
Trump refused in that instance also, arguing in interviews that the U.S. District Judge’s Mexican heritage meant he couldn’t ensure a fair hearing for a billionaire wanting to build a border wall to keep people from illegally entering the U.S. from Mexico.