MANHATTAN (CN) – At odds with President Donald Trump’s concession that the accused perpetrator of New York City’s deadly truck attack will not be tried at Guantanamo Bay, Attorney General Jeff Sessions boasted Thursday that the creaky war court remains open for business.
“Terrorists should know: this administration will use all lawful tools at our disposal, including prosecution in Article III courts and at Guantanamo Bay,” Sessions told a roomful of a law enforcement officials this morning.
“If anyone has any doubt about that, they can ask the more than 500 criminals whom the Department of Justice has convicted of terrorism-related offenses since 9/11,” he added. “And they can ask the dozens of enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay.”
Among those enemy combatants are five men accused of plotting the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.
With no trial date in sight for them, however, Trump walked back an earlier suggestion that the military commissions there could bring 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov to justice on this week’s carnage.
“Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system,” Trump tweeted this morning.
“There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed,” he added later. “Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!”
Of the 61 people on federal death row, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is the only one convicted of terrorism offenses. New York has had an effective moratorium on the death penalty for state crimes dating back to 2004, but there has been no execution here since 1963.
Trump’s tweets came about an hour before Sessions delivered prepared remarks this morning in New York at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, less than a mile from the West Side Highway bike path where eight were killed on Tuesday.
Federal pubic defender David Patton, who is representing Saipov against federal terrorism charges, has not responded to a request for comment.
Authorities say Saipov carried out his attack Tuesday with a flatbed truck rented from Home Depot. After crashing into a school bus, Saipov allegedly emerged from the truck brandishing two fake guns and shouting “Allahu Akbar,” an Arabic phrase meaning God is great.
Sessions paid tribute this morning to Ryan Nash, the police officer who has been credited with disarming Saipov on Tuesday with a shot to the abdomen.
“[Nash] is rightly regarded as a hero today — not just in New York, but across America,” Sessions said. “He symbolizes the best of the best.”
Refusing to take questions from the press, Sessions this morning laid out a hardline prescription for his theme of defending national security — a plan of action conspicuously withheld a month earlier when 58 people were killed in Las Vegas, without reference to the Islamic State group, at what became the country’s deadliest mass shooting.
Sessions today called for boosting some of the most controversial facets from the national-security repertoire of the George W. Bush administration, programs that civil libertarians call illegality.