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Trump Demands Death Penalty for NYC Terror Suspect

Trump backtracked from saying he wanted to send Sayfullo Saipov to the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, but doubled down on his demand he be put to death.
Image: Donald Trump, Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Nov. 1.Evan Vucci / AP

President Donald Trump is calling for the death penalty for the New York City suspected terrorist who killed eight people and is backtracking on his suggestion that he was open to sending the attacker to the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

"Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system…There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!" Trump posted in a pair of tweets Thursday morning.

His call for capital punishment for Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek immigrant suspected of mowing down eight people and injuring others with a rented truck in what law enforcement said was an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack, represented his second in as many days.

Late Wednesday night, Trump had tweeted that he supported capital punishment in the case, posting that he "SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!"

His tweets Thursday about where to imprison Saipov, however, marked a reversal for the president, who just a day earlier said he would "certainly consider" sending the suspected terrorist to Gitmo.

"Send him to Gitmo — I would certainly consider that, yes," the president told reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday. An administration official told NBC News Wednesday that there's likely no legal authority to send Saipov to the detention facility.

Trump also argued that the U.S. justice system takes too long and that authorities "have to come up with punishment that's far quicker ... than the punishment these animals are getting right now."

Several Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., had argued on Wednesday that Saipov should be labeled an enemy combatant. As commander in chief, Trump can classify an individual as an enemy combatant, empowering the United States to detain that person without trial and without the rights granted to civilians, such as the right to a lawyer.

Saipov was charged by the U.S. attorney's office Wednesday with one count of material support to a terrorist organization and one count of violence and destruction of a motor vehicle.