IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

GOP Candidates Renew Calls to Preserve Guantanamo

President Barack Obama’s call to shutter the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay on Tuesday reignited GOP rallying cries on the campaign trail to preserve the detention facility.
Get more newsLiveonNBC News Now

President Barack Obama’s call to shutter the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay on Tuesday reignited GOP rallying cries on the campaign trail to preserve the detention facility.

“This makes no sense to me. Number one, we’re not giving back an important naval base to an anti-American communist dictatorship,” Marco Rubio said of the facility in Cuba. “And number two, we're not going to close Guantanamo. In fact, we shouldn’t be releasing the people that are there now. They are enemy combatants."

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have blocked Obama’s efforts to close Guantanamo. Among the most contentious aspects of his proposal is the transfer of some detainees to U.S. soil.

At a campaign stop in Nevada, Sen. Ted Cruz said that prisoners released from Guantanamo will likely return to "waging jihad" against U.S. citizens. He proposes expanding the detention center instead.

"Let me say this Mr. President don't shut down Gitmo, expand it and let's have some new terrorists there," he said.

Cruz added, "The next president is going to have to look in the eyes of a father or mother that we have to send your son to go capture these terrorists again or kill them because President Obama released them to pose a threat to this country."

The Texas senator also mentioned that he fears President Obama will hand over the detention center to the Castro brothers "as a parting gift" when he leaves office. For the first time in 88 years, the president will travel to Cuba to continue promoting the renewed diplomatic relations between both countries.

Unlike Cruz, Donald Trump hinted that it might be a good idea to give Guantanamo Bay to the Cubans to get some money back.

"Maybe in our deal with Cuba, we get them to take it over and reimburse us because we're probably paying rent," he said while stumping in Nevada.

As president, Trump said that he would "load up" Guantanamo "with some bad dudes" and make sure that the U.S. pays much lower than the millions it takes to keep it operating.

In Georgia, Ohio Gov. John Kasich told reporters that Guantanamo Bay is a non-issue likely brought up again by the administration to close on President Obama's 2008 campaign promise.

"I think he's just trying to live up to a political promise, but some of the toughest people we have are there and why would you close that down and move those people here into the United States?," Kasich said.

“If it was such a good idea, I guess it would have been done seven years ago,” Carson said in an interview on MSNBC. “Obviously it is not a great idea and I don’t support it and you know the assumption is all presidents coming after him will also think it’s a good idea. It’s, I think, ill-conceived.”

Bernie Sanders welcomed the president’s announcement and knocked Hillary Clinton in a statement.

"As I have said for years, the prison at Guantanamo must be closed as quickly as possible," said Sanders. "Others, including my opponent, have not always agreed with me."

At a recent campaign stop in South Carolina, a state that has been suggested as a possible location for some detainees to be transferred, Clinton said, "The president has to decide what he thinks should be done. He hasn't yet so I don’t have a response. I wanna see what he's gonna recommend.”

But in a statement released late Tuesday, Clinton said, “I support President Obama’s plan today to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and finally close the door on this chapter of our history... I backed closing Guantanamo as a Senator, and when I ran for President in 2008."