WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump lashed out at his own Justice Department Monday for seeking the Supreme Court’s backing for a “watered down, politically correct version” of the travel ban he signed in March.
In a series of early morning tweets, Trump urged the Justice Department to ask for an “expedited hearing” at the high court and seek a “much tougher version” of the order temporarily blocking entry to the U.S. from a half-dozen majority Muslim countries. He called the courts, which have blocked two versions of the travel ban, “slow and political.”
It’s unclear whether the president has conveyed his requests to the Justice Department, which he oversees, in a forum other than Twitter.
The president criticized the legal strategy in the wake of the vehicle and knife attack in London that left seven people dead and dozens injured. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Last week, the Justice Department formally asked the Supreme Court to let a ban on visitors from six majority Muslim countries and refugees from around the world to be put in place. The high court also is being asked to uphold the constitutionality of the Trump travel policy, which lower courts have blocked because it shows anti-Muslim prejudice.
The directive that would go before the Supreme Court is a narrower version of the executive order the president signed during his first week in office. The second order removed Iraq from the list of banned countries. An indefinite halt to entry from Syrian refugees was replaced by a temporary pause.
Trump’s criticism came a day after he said he would do whatever is necessary to protect the United States from a “vile enemy” that he said has waged war on innocents for too long,. “This bloodshed must end, this bloodshed will end,” he vowed.
Trump was commenting Sunday evening on the vehicle and knife attack that killed at least seven people in London at the conclusion of a Sunday night fundraiser for Ford’s Theater, scene of one of the most famous acts of bloodshed in American history: the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
“America sends our thoughts and prayers and our deepest sympathies to the victims of this evil slaughter and we renew our resolve, stronger than ever before, to protect the United States and its allies from a vile enemy that has waged war on innocent life, and it’s gone on too long,” Trump said in an appearance at a Ford’s Theater event, his first comments in public on the attack late Saturday in a busy section of London. He previously had commented via a series of Twitter posts Saturday.
“As president, I will do what is necessary to prevent this threat from spreading to our shores and work every single day to protect the safety and security of our country, our communities and our people,” he said.
Trump said he had spoken with British Prime Minister Theresa May to express America’s “unwavering support” and offer U.S. assistance as the British government works to protect its citizens and bring the guilty to justice.
After more than 20 people were killed in a bomb attack last month at a concert in Manchester, England, Trump condemned the assault as the act of “evil losers” and called on nations to band together to fight terrorism.
Earlier Sunday, Trump had criticized London’s mayor after the mayor sought to reassure residents about a stepped-up police presence following the attack, the third in the country in past three months. Trump argued in a Twitter post for leaders to “stop being politically correct” and to focus on “security for our people.”
The mayor’s spokesman said he was too busy to respond to Trump’s “ill-informed” tweet.
In a series of tweets that began late Saturday, Trump also pushed his stalled travel ban, mocked gun control supporters and pledged that the
United States will be there to help London and the United Kingdom.
Trump challenged London Mayor Sadiq Khan for saying there was “no reason to be alarmed.” Khan spoke those words in a television interview Sunday in the context of reassuring Londoners about an increased police presence they might see.
“No reason to be alarmed,” Khan said, describing a more visible presence as “one of the things the police and all of us need to do to make sure we are as safe as we possibly can be.”
Trump wasn’t satisfied and responded Sunday with a trio of tweets:
“We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse.”
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!'”
Trump ended with: “Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!”
Khan’s office dismissed the tweet, saying the mayor “is busy working with the police, emergency services and the government to coordinate the response to this horrific and cowardly terrorist attack and provide leadership and reassurance to Londoners and visitors to our city. He has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks urging Londoners not to be alarmed when they saw more police — including armed officers — on the streets.”
Trump’s first comment after the attack came late Saturday on Twitter. He promoted a proposed travel ban on visitors from six mostly Muslim countries and refugees from around the world that has been blocked by U.S. courts.
The Trump administration last week formally asked the Supreme Court, the highest court in the U.S., to allow the ban to take effect, arguing that restricting immigration by refugees and visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen is necessary to protect U.S. national security.
A date for the court to hear arguments in the case was not immediately set.
“We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” Trump tweeted Saturday after the attack.