- President Donald Trump called for prosecutors on Wednesday to seek the death penalty for Sayfullo Saipov
- He repeated that demand on Thursday morning while explaining why it would be impractical to send him to the Guantanamo Bay military prison
- Former federal prosecutors have weighed in, saying the president's tweets will make it harder for Saipov to get a fair trial and will hand defense lawyers a gift
- Rep. Steve Scalise, famous for surviving a shooting attack this summer, says 'whatever the harshest penalty that they can put forward is the right thing to do'
- Saipov, 29, was charged Wednesday with providing material support to a terrorist group and committing violence and destruction of motor vehicles
- Saipov killed eight and injured 12 by mowing them down with a rented pick-up truck on the Hudson River bike path in lower Manhattan Tuesday afternoon
- According to a criminal complaint, Saipov admitted that he was inspired by ISIS
Published: 08:11 EDT, 2 November 2017 | Updated: 14:13 EDT, 2 November 2017
Former prosecutors and other notable attorneys expressed alarm on Wednesday and Thursday that President Donald Trump's insistence on the death penalty for accused terrorist Sayfullo Saipov could make it harder for the Department of Justice to convict him.
'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,' former New York federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy wrote on Twitter.
Saipov mowed down more than a dozen innocent people Tuesday on a New York City bike path, killing eight of them. But announcing a verdict and sentence ahead of time could be a legally problematic complication.
'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 Wednesday night.
'Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system,' he added Thursday. 'There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!'
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President Donald Trump has said he favors the death penalty for accused terrorist Sayfullo Saipov, leading some legal experts to worry that he may be hamstringing prosecutors
Trump made his first mention of the death penalty for Saipov on Wednesday night as many Americans were watching the World Series wrap up
Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who successfully prosecuted terror sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, chastised the president for making the Justice Department's job harder
'The jury pool is tainted,' warned former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, hinting that defense lawyers would have a field day with Trump's tweets
Renato Mariotti, a former federal securities fraud prosecutor who is running for attorney general in Illinois as a Democrat, tweeted that 'Trump helped the terrorist' by prejudging his case.
'Now prosecutors will have to spend time dealing with motions that the jury pool is tainted.'
Washington attorney Mark Zaid, who specializes in national security law, tweeted: 'This is called potentially tainting jury pool & could impact alleged perpetrator's ability to secure fair trial. SMH #Unpresidential'
Presidents and governors seldom weigh in on pending criminal cases out of fear that it could prejudice and undermine an otherwise fair trial.
The president in particular is in charge of the Justice Department, which is in control of Saipov's prosecution.
National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster dodged a question during Thursday's White House press briefing, saying only that 'what the president wants is secure the American people from this threat, and from … mass-murderers like this.'
'And so what he's asked for is options to take a look – to assess if our tremendous law enforcement teams and our judicial system has all the tools they need to be able to combat this threat to the American people.'
Other experts who weighed in included Wall Street Journal correspondent Jess Bravin, who covers the U.S. Supreme Court.
'Defense counsel [is] likely to cite such comments as prejudicial to fair trial or sentencing,' he wrote of Trump's tweets.
'Shake My Head': National security lawyer Mark Zaid called Trump's tweet 'unpresidential'
Trump said Thursday morning for the second time that he wants suspected terrorist Sayfullo Saipov to face the death penalty
Trump on Thursday also walked back his suggestion from a day earlier that Saipov might be sent to rot in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp
The Muslim immigrant from Uzbekistan (above in court sketches) accused of carrying on Tuesday's terror attack in Manhattan entered court Wednesday evening in a wheelchair, handcuffed and with his feet shackled, to face terrorism charges filed against him by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York
But on 'Fox & Friends,' Trump's go-to morning TV choice, opinions were clear and monolithic on Thursday.
'When I hear people about, "Where are we going to send him? Should we send him to Gitmo?" I say we skip Gitmo and send him straight to hell where he belongs,' former U.S. Navy SEAL Jocko Willink said on the show.
And Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, famous for surviving a gunman's attack this summer, said Trump was 'right' to suggest Guantanamo Bay.
Scalise said the Justice Department should 'throw the book at him.'
'Whatever the harshest penalty that they can put forward is the right thing to do,' he said, adding that Saipov 'should absolutely be … eligible and get the death penalty.'
Rep. Steve Scalise, famous for surviving a shooting attack this summer, said on the Fox & Friends program that 'whatever the harshest penalty that they can put forward is the right thing to do'
Former U.S. Navy SEAL Jocko Willink gave Trump some red meat to tweet about, saying of Saipov that the U.S. should 'skip Gitmo and send him straight to hell where he belongs'
Trump had already seized on the deadly New York City truck attack to step up demands for stricter U.S. immigration laws, asking Congress to end a visa program that let the Uzbek suspect into the country.
Former president Barack Obama had tried but failed to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. No detainee has been sent there since 2008.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Wednesday that Trump considers Saipov an 'enemy combatant,' a designation that would make the alleged New York killer ineligible for legal rights afforded to criminal suspects in U.S. courts.
Among those rights, familiar to watchers of TV cop dramas, are the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during questioning.
'I believe we would consider this person to be an enemy combatant, yes,' White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters during Wednesday's briefing, while cautioning that she wasn't sure how the federal government would 'process' him.
People gathered for a candlelight vigil for victims of the attack at Foley Square in New York City on Wednesday
The suspect, Saipov, was allegedly an adherent of ISIS and was said to be radicalized domestically
Asked why the 'enemy combatant' label is appropriate, she replied: 'I think the actions that he took certainly justify that.'
Trump had called the suspect 'this animal' and lambasted the U.S. justice system that he leads as 'a joke' and 'a laughing stock.'
Since taking office in January, Trump has sought to increase deportations of illegal immigrants and limit legal immigration.
The Muslim immigrant from Uzbekistan accused of carrying out Tuesday's terror attack in Manhattan entered court Wednesday evening in a wheelchair, handcuffed and with his feet shackled, to face terrorism charges filed against him by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Saipov wore a gray shirt and was surrounded by five guards while in his wheelchair inside a New York federal courthouse after he was charged with providing material support to a terrorist group and committing violence and destruction of motor vehicles.
Saipov drove nearly a mile down the Hudson River bike path before his rampage came to an end when he smashed into a school bus
The above graphic shows how Saipov drove off the West Side Highway and onto the Hudson River bike path on Tuesday
His lawyers said Wednesday they were not seeking bail and a judge ordered him to be held. Saipov did not enter a plea to terrorism charges and a judge set his next court date for November 15.
Authorities say the Uzbek national watched ISIS videos on his cellphone and picked Halloween for the attack on a bike lane in lower Manhattan because he believed more people would be out on the streets.
He also had plans to drive over the Brooklyn Bridge and kill pedestrians on the walking path over the NYC landmark.
Prosecutors said in court papers that Saipov asked to display the ISIS flag in his hospital room where he was recovering from being shot by police.
Saipov 'stated that he felt good about what he had done,' according to court papers.
He left behind knives and a note, handwritten in Arabic, that included Islamic religious references and said 'it will endure' – a phrase that commonly refers to ISIS, FBI agent Amber Tyree said in court papers.
WHO CAN TRUMP PUT IN GITMO?
The Trump administration is constrained by the terms of the most recent congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which dates back to the George W. Bush administration.
Dated three days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the AUMF authorizes the President of the United States to use force against anyone who 'planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.'
Previous administrations have used this congressional go-ahead to justify military action against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the ISIS terror army – and they've been on solid legal ground.
What has never been tested, however, is the idea of taking a terror suspect who was captured in the United States and taking military action against him. Sending a prisoner to Guantanamo Bay – a U.S. Navy facility – would be one example.
There are Supreme Court cases that support putting 'enemy combatants' into the hands of military tribunals, and trying them outside the normal criminal court system. But those typically refer to people engaged in an armed conflict on behalf of a country, not a loosely confederated terror movement.
The reason putting terror suspects in 'Gitmo' proved attractive for the Bush administration was that the prison camp is not in the United States. Terrorists captured in the Middle East, for instance, could be held indefinitely without even letting them set foot on U.S. soil.
The case of Sayfullo Saipov, however, is different: He was arrested in New York City and likely is already entitled to some rights under the U.S. Constitution, plus rights afforded under the Geneva Convention.
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Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania
A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.
Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.
The other driver involved was not hurt.
Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.
The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.
“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.
“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”
Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.
Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.
Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.
Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.
In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.
Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.
Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos
Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.
Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.
While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.
“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.
A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.
Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.
“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.
He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.
“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”
The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.
“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.
Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.
On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.
Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.
But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.
Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.
“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”
The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.
The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.
“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.
The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.
Grace Tame says caller ‘threatened’ against criticising PM
An Australian of the Year and sexual abuse survivor has said she received a “threatening” call warning her not to criticise the prime minister.
Grace Tame made the allegation in a speech on Wednesday, where she said she’d been called by a “senior member of a government-funded organisation”.
She added she was asked to promise not to say anything “damning” about Scott Morrison.
The government has denied knowledge of the call and said it will investigate.
On Tuesday, Mr Morrison made a formal apology to former political staffer Brittany Higgins more than a year after the young woman went public with the allegation that she had been raped by a male colleague in a ministerial office.
Her story sparked national anger, and an inquiry into parliament’s culture which found more than a third of workers had been sexually harassed.
Both Ms Higgins and Ms Tame have been heralded this past year for prompting a national conversation about abuse, power and gender inequality.
On Wednesday, the pair delivered a highly anticipated joint address at the National Press Club in Canberra.
Asked by journalists if she could name the threatening caller and their organisation, Ms Tame said: “if I was willing to name either, I would have put them in the speech”.
But she said the caller had been concerned about what she would say on the evening her successor as Australian of the Year was named.
She said the caller had described her as an “influential figure” and that Mr Morrison would “have a fear” about what she might say “with an election coming soon”. Australia is due to hold a general election before 21 May.
“Sound familiar to anyone? Well, it does to me,” Ms Tame said, before drawing a comparison with her former abuser – a teacher who had raped her as a child and pressured her to stay silent.
Mr Morrison’s office said it had not been aware of the call before Ms Tame’s speech, adding “the individual should apologise”.
“The PM and the government consider the actions and statements of the individual as unacceptable,” a spokesperson said.
But Ms Tame said launching a probe “misses the point entirely”.
“Stop deflecting, Scott. It’s not about the person who made the call. It’s the fact they felt like they had to do it at all,” she tweeted.
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