Donald Trump isn't very good at crisis management. Unfortunately for him, his short presidency has already seen several of these including the North Korea nuclear missile threat, the Las Vegas shooting, Hurricane Harvey, etc. His response to them have usually been of the knee-jerk variety, causing many to raise fresh doubts about his capabilities as president.
On Wednesday, after a man in a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists in Manhattan, killing eight and injuring 11, Trump announced a slew of measures addressing the issue. They are as following:
Repeal of 'Diversity Visa' programme
Trump urged the swift repeal of an immigration programme that brought many, including the New York attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov, to the US. Saipov had migrated to the US from Uzbekistan in 2010 after winning a lottery enabling him to do so.
The programme, established by Congress and coordinated by the state department, has its roots in efforts to bring more Irish and Italian immigrants into the US. Citizens of countries that send relatively few immigrants to the US can enter a lottery that grants winners permanent US residency. Applicants must have at least a high school education or its equivalent, or relevant work experience.
But on Wednesday, Trump said he would ask Congress to "immediately" initiate efforts to kill the programme, and the Republican House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, who has long called for an end to Diversity Visas', said in a statement that they pose "a threat to the safety of our citizens".
The White House was forced to walk back some of his comments, stressing that he was not taking executive action but looking to Congress to change decades-old laws. "We're going to continue pushing for and advocating for getting rid of this programme," Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Trump also ordered tighter scrutiny checks for immigrants, even tougher than what currently exists as part of "extreme vetting".
But the White House offered no indication of what new steps the president might be planning. "We have to get much tougher, much smarter, and less politically correct," Trump said.
He also said the US justice system for dealing with such cases must be strengthened, declaring, "What we have right now is a joke and it's a laughing stock." Again, there was no elaboration from the White House.
The extreme vetting process, as it stands today, took off from an executive order titled 'Protection Of The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States'. However, it did not stop with the initial ban (which was blocked by the courts) on travel of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia.
Tourists from the UK and other countries visiting the US could also be forced to reveal mobile phone contacts, social media passwords and financial data under extreme vetting practices considered by the Trump administration, The Wall Street Journal reported. These tourists could also face questions over their ideology.
The measures might include visitors from the 38 countries — the UK, France, Australia and Japan, among them — which participate in a visa waiver programme, which requires adherence to strict American standards in data sharing, passport control and other factors, the report quoted an official as saying.
The aim is to "figure out who you are communicating with", a senior homeland security official was quoted as saying. "What you can get on the average person's phone can be invaluable."
Trump also said that he would consider sending the suspect to the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. But just a few hours later, the government filed federal terrorism charges against him, signaling an intent to prosecute him within the US. The developments marked a sharp disconnect between the president and his administration.
Trump had professed himself to be open to the idea of sending Saipov to Guantanamo in a seemingly off-the-cuff answer to questions from reporters. "I would certainly consider that, send him to Gitmo," Trump said, using the familiar shorthand for the detention centre. The White House later reinforced that idea by saying it considered Saipov to be an "enemy combatant".
"(We) have to come up with punishment that's far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now," Trump said.
But with the filing of federal charges, there was little indication that the threat of Guantanamo was anything more than tough talk.
Sanders too ruled out executive action to introduce "quicker" and "greater" punishment for those guilty of terror offences. "I believe he was voicing his frustration with the lengthy process that often comes with a case like this," Sanders said.
Late on Wednesday, Trump tweeted that the suspect should get the death penalty.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2017
However, Trump's efforts would not have prevented most attacks. Tuesday's incident was the second time a Jihadist attack has been tied to the lottery inside the US. In July 2002, an Egyptian man whose wife entered the country on the green card programme shot two people dead at the ticket counter for Israeli airline El Al.
But other than this, Trump's immigration crackdown would not have prevented any of the other deadly jihadist attacks inside the US. Most have been perpetrated by US-born and radicalised perpetrators. And most have family ties to countries not covered by Trump's travel bans — Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, etc.
With inputs from agencies
Published Date: Nov 02, 2017 15:47 PM | Updated Date: Nov 02, 2017 15:47 PM