President Trump’s instinctive reaction to the New York terrorist attack was typical Trump bluster, reported the Washington Post. The country must “come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting now,” he said. “They’ll go through court for years. . . . We need quick justice and we need strong justice, much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock.”
President Trump’s attitude toward the criminal justice system has long blended ignorance with contempt for constitutional values. That ugly mixture was on full display after New York suffered its worst terrorist attack since 9/11 and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III unveiled his first indictments.
Take that in: a U.S. president calling the criminal justice system a “joke” and a “laughingstock.” It is a measure of how aberrant this statement is that the only defense the White House press secretary could summon was to deny that the president had actually said those words.
Trump’s statement is factually wrong, as a later tweet implicitly conceded. The criminal justice system has consistently meted out severe punishment to convicted terrorists in remarkably short time. Since 9/11, more than 620 individuals have been convicted on terrorism-related charges in civilian courts. “Shoe Bomber”Richard Reid tried to blow up a plane in 2001; he pleaded guilty in 2002 and was sentenced to life in prison in 2003. Faisal Shahzad tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in 2010; five months later he was sentenced to life in prison. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev planted bombs that killed three people at the Boston Marathon in 2013; two years later he was convicted and sentenced to death. How much quicker and stronger does Trump want?
But Trump’s comments are not merely offensive and misguided — they are dangerous. His tweeted demand that the accused truck driver receive the “DEATH PENALTY” for “the horrible crime he committed” can only complicate prosecutors’ jobs.
Still, Trump’s reaction to the horror in Manhattan looks restrained in comparison with his unhinged fury in the wake of the special counsel indictments. To read Trump’s Twitter feed from the moment that the reports of indictments emerged is to witness a man frantic to change the subject. “There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!” Trump tweeted last Sunday.
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