President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Sayfullo Saipov, the motorist accused of killing eight in New York City on Tuesday in a domestic terror attack, should face the death penalty for his actions.
“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!” the president tweeted late Wednesday, referencing reports that Saipov sought to wave the Islamic State flag from his Bellevue hospital room after the attack.
The comments serve as Trump’s most direct call to action against the attacker since Tuesday’s lethal incident. It is extremely unusual for a sitting president to weigh in on an ongoing criminal trial process, let alone recommend capital punishment, and could potentially complicate efforts to prosecute Saipov.
Saipov was formally charged Wednesday for the eight killings and numerous injuries he inflicted by plowing a rented truck into a busy cycling path near One World Trade Center, the deadliest terror attack in New York City since Sep. 11, 2001. The charges include one count of providing material support to terrorists and one count of violence and destruction of a motor vehicle causing death, the latter of which could result in capital punishment.
Trump has been a vocal proponent of the death penalty both prior to and since entering the political realm. That’s true, as in this case, even at times when the suspect or suspects have not yet gone to trial.
In 1989, Trump famously paid $85,000 to call for a group of five black and Latino men to face the death penalty for the horrific rape of a woman in New York City, a crime the group, dubbed the “Central Park Five,” were later proved innocent of by DNA evidence. “Bring Back the Death Penalty!” read the ad purchased by the then-real estate mogul.
On the 2016 campaign trail, candidate Trump vowed to enact an executive order that would allow him to impose capital punishment against so-called cop killers.
Since Tuesday’s attack, the president has repeatedly condemned the actions of the terror suspect. On Tuesday Trump lamented “another attack by a very sick and deranged person” on Twitter, extending his “thoughts, condolences and prayers” to the victims.
Trump on Wednesday said that he would consider sending Saipov to the Guantanamo Bay prison — a move that would be unprecedented for someone whose case began in civilian courts — as he called the U.S. justice system a “laughingstock” for its inability to respond more quickly to deal with terror suspects.