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Trump: Terror Suspect 'Should Get Death Penalty'; Prosecutors: Suspect Planned Attack for a Year. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired November 2, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also have to come up with punishment far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right right now.
[07:00:05] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: All President Trump does is take horrible advantage of a tragedy and try to politicize.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The fact that we have a lottery system, to have no vetting is a problem.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: What she was saying is not true.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's going to continue to use immigration as a divisive issue to scare people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's possible for a year that he's been planning this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They found 90 videos of ISIS propaganda.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wanted to continue his rampage onto the Brooklyn Bridge, hoping to kill more people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's sending a message not only to Americans; he's sending a message to people overseas, saying, "I succeeded."
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow here. Saw you yesterday covering the attack on the street, where it happened, and now here we are and it is far...
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We know a lot more now.
CUOMO: Absolutely. And there's a new wrinkle and a new development. President Trump's late-night tweeting once again changing -- changing the dynamic of a very important story. The New York terror suspect, he says, should be executed. Now just
after the president called the America judicial system a joke and a laughingstock. The president using the attack to push a political agenda: harsher immigration, restricting who can come into this country.
HARLOW: We're also this morning learning some pretty stunning new details about the attack in this city. Prosecutors say the suspect was inspired by ISIS and thought it was in the works for a year. Authorities also revealed that he planned to continue this killing spree, trying to drive over the Brooklyn Bridge and kill more innocent civilians.
We have it all covered. Let's begin at the White House with Joe Johns this morning. Good morning.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy.
President Trump reacting with outrage to the attack in his hometown, focusing on punishment, talking about the death penalty, which is unusual for a president. Also blasting the legal system. And at the same time getting Democrats into a debate over immigration, raising questions about when it's appropriate to start talking politics after a national tragedy.
TRUMP: Diversity lottery, sounds nice. It's not nice.
JOHNS (voice-over): Overnight, President Trump tweeting that the suspect in New York City's terror attack "should get death penalty." The president also saying he would consider the suspect, labeled an enemy combatant by the White House, to the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
TRUMP: Send him to Gitmo. I would certainly consider that, yes.
JOHNS: Mr. Trump continuing to politicize Tuesday's tragedy to advance his immigration policies.
TRUMP: We want to immediately work with Congress on the diversity lottery program, on terminating it, getting rid of it.
JOHNS: The president calling for an end to the diversity visa lottery program, a program that allowed the New York City terror suspect to gain entry to the U.S. in 2010. And demanding that Congress get tougher on vetting for immigrants coming to the U.S., shifting the country away from a family-based system toward a merit-based one.
TRUMP: We have to get much less politically correct. We're so politically correct that we're afraid to do anything.
JOHNS: The president blaming New York's Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer, for implementing the program and endangering the country. Schumer helped craft the bill that was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. But in 2013, Schumer was also part of a bipartisan group, known as the
Gang of Eight, that pushed to end the diversity program.
SCHUMER: The president ought to stop tweeting and start leading. It's less than a day, then, after it occurred, and he can't refrain from his nasty, divisive habits. He ought to lead.
JOHNS: President Trump also venting his frustration at U.S. courts, insisting they're too slow and too lenient.
TRUMP: We also have to come up with punishment that's far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now. Because what we have right now is a joke, and it's a laughingstock.
JOHNS: Press secretary Sarah Sanders mischaracterizing the president's remarks when asked by reporters.
ACOSTA: He said that the system of justice, it is a joke...
SANDERS: He said that process. He said the process has people calling us a joke and calling us a laughingstock.
JOHNS: The president's comments and tweets after the New York attack starkly different from his response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and injuring hundreds more. The president then dismissing the idea of discussing gun control as inappropriate.
TRUMP: We're not going to talk about that.
JOHNS: It took 24 hours for the president to reach out to New York's leaders after the attack. But the governor making clear the president's tweets are a distraction.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The president's tweets, I think, were not helpful. I don't think they were factual. I think they tended to point fingers and politicize the situation.
[07:05:12] JOHNS: Today is expected to be another big day here at the White House as the president unveils his pick for chairman of the Federal Reserve. Not to be overlooked is House Republicans as they unveil their tax plan.
Chris, back to you.
CUOMO: Joe Johns, thank you very much.
We're just 24 hours after the attack in New York. And you've got prosecutors releasing incredible details from their questioning of the suspect. The criminal complaint revealing how long the attack was planned, why it was planned, what role ISIS played, and what he wanted to do that he wasn't able to.
CNN's Alex Marquardt is live in lower Manhattan with more. What do we know, my friend? ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right,
Chris. We know that he wanted to inflict a lot more damage than he was able to. We're also learning a lot more about the planning, how darkly premeditated it was. And we're learning that because he has waived his Miranda rights and is speaking with investigators.
And when you listen to the tone, when you see the tone of these quotes, it looks like -- it sounds like he's proud of it.
We know that this attack was in the works, the planning was in the works for about a year. But it was only about two months ago that he decided to use a truck, and that's likely because he saw how deadly effective it was over in Europe in places like Berlin, Barcelona and London.
We also know that he chose Halloween afternoon, because so many people would be out and about in that criminal complaint that you referenced. Authorities saying that he wanted to kill as many people as he could.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): The man accused of carrying out a mile-long killing spree on a New York City bike path officially charged on federal terrorism charges, including providing support to ISIS.
JOHN MILLER, NEW YORK DEPUTY POLICE COMMISSIONER: He appears to have followed almost exactly to a "T" the instructions that ISIS has put out.
MARQUARDT: Authorities revealing chilling new details about how 29- year-old Sayfullo Saipov became radicalized while living in the U.S. Prosecutors say he began plotting the attack one year ago.
JOON H. KIM, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Saipov allegedly admitted that he was inspired to commit the attack by the ISIS videos he watched.
MARQUARDT: The criminal complaint says Saipov was inspired by ISI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, investigators finding dozens of videos and thousands of images of the terror group on his cell phone, which was recovered at the attack site.
Authorities say Saipov waived his Miranda rights and told them he chose Halloween, because he believed more people would be on the street and wanted to, quote, "inflict maximum damage against civilians."
From his hospital bed, prosecutors say Saipov confessed that he was proud of what he did, even asking them to hang an ISIS flag in his room.
Investigators say Saipov rented a similar truck just last week to make a practice run.
CARLOS BATISTA, NEIGHBOR: The first time I saw it was three weeks ago. And I guess he constantly rented the same model truck out. MARQUARDT: Some neighbors surprised, saying he was polite,
nonconfrontational, even a peace maker. But an acquaintance in Ohio described him as a nervous man, even aggressive but still, saw no signs of radicalization.
Police outlining how quickly Saipov carried out the attack. He rented a truck at a Home Depot in New Jersey just an hour before. Police license plate readers capturing the truck crossing the George Washington Bridge. And roughly 20 minutes later, police say Saipov jumped a curb onto the bike path, mowing down pedestrians and cyclists for nearly a mile.
Investigators now say Saipov planned to continue down to the Brooklyn Bridge but was stopped unexpectedly when he crashed into this school bus. Officer Ryan Nash, who shot Saipov as he tried to flee the scene, telling reporters that he's no hero.
OFFICER RYAN NASH, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: Although I feel like we were just doing our job, like thousands of officers do every day, I understand the importance of yesterday's events and the role we played.
MARQUARDT: This as we're learning more about the eight people killed. Among the victims, five men from Argentina celebrating their 30th high school reunion. This video showing the group enjoying a bike ride along the Hudson River just before the attack.
Another tourist also killed, 31-year-old Anne-Laure Decadt, visiting from Belgium. She leaves behind two young sons.
And two American victims: Nicholas Cleves, a 23-year-old New York native, and 32-year-old Darren Drake from nearby New Milford, New Jersey.
JAMES "JIMMY" DRAKE, VICTIM'S FATHER: He had everything going for him. Nice guy. Everything in the world you can imagine.
MARQUARDT: Now, authorities will obviously be reaching out to those closest to the attacker to see if they can glean any of the many answers to the many questions that we have. We do know that the authorities have spoken with his wife who is also an Uzbek national. No word on what she told the investigators.
The FBI yesterday also put out a notice they were looking for a young man who is possibly an associate of the attacker. They did quickly find him, taking him into custody custody here in the New York metropolitan area.
[07:10:10] Now, the U.S. attorney's office has 30 days with which to indict the attacker, at which point he will have to enter a plea. As we've noted many times, he has shown no remorse so far for this attack.
And Chris and Poppy, just one more thing on how he was thinking about carrying out this attack.
In that criminal complaint, he says that he was thinking about hanging ISIS flags on the front and back of that truck as he barreled down that -- that bike path but decided not to so as not to draw any more attention and presumably try to wreak more havoc -- Chris, Poppy.
HARLOW: Alex, thank you for the reporting there from Lower Manhattan.
Let's bring in our panel: CNN political analysts John Avlon and David Gregory; CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd.
John, to you: This is a multipronged approach from the president to attack the judicial system, attack due process. I mean, from -- maybe send him to Gitmo, which would be unprecedented and challenged legally. And by the way, let's read what he wrote overnight about 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 the death penalty." That, all legal experts say, just makes it harder for prosecutors.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and it's also outside the American tradition. Let's -- a reality check. Let's see some perspective on this.
After 9/11, there was pearl clutching in some quarters when George W. Bush said we wanted Osama bin Laden dead or alive. People said that was cowboy. That was not calling someone an animal, despite the fact that they are evil. That wasn't that kind of demonization. Saying we need to rush an execution. Saying that the process of due process in this country, the justice system is a laughingstock. It is too slow.
This is the language of folks in other countries that have authoritarian impulses. And that's what's coming out in Twitter. It's against our best traditions and another best tradition. After 9/11, George W. Bush called the senators from New York, governor and mayor to the White House. National unity.
This is Donald Trump's hometown where this occurred. And it took him a full day to reach out to our elected leaders. That also is a massive disconnect.
CUOMO: And his first impulse wasn't to comfort the victims and speak to people directly. He played politics right out of the box.
But I love you, John Avlon. But Gregory, all of that, snowflake talk.
CUOMO: Anger towards the people who do this to us: "We want them dead. And this process should not help them. It should help us." These are sellable political points for this president. I get why they will draw criticism. But it works for him politically, does it not? I get why it's a legal challenge. I get it. I hear what the prosecutors are saying. DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
CUOMO: You've got jury tainting. You have other procedural problems that defense attorneys could work off of. I get it. But politically, how does this not help him?
GREGORY: There's no question. And let's also remember that we have seen, going all the way back to the Oklahoma City bombing, you know, a president's response reflects the frustration and the danger and the fear of the country in the face of these kinds of attacks. And particularly since 9/11, the threshold for risk is very, very low for any president who is going to occupy the office. So there is talk about getting tough and about cracking down.
But this is not a Roman coliseum. And the president is not, you know, putting thumbs up or thumbs down. And we have to remember some important context.
One of the reasons events like this are so incredibly rare is because of what America is, because of who we are, and because what our -- not just our culture but what our laws are and how we protect our citizens. And that's one of the reasons why it's so unusual for people to come here and become radicalized. And that's what we really have to drill down on. How do we prevent circumstances like this, somebody who comes here legally through our immigration system, becomes radicalized on his own. That's what's so scary about this piece of it.
The other thing is, I'll go back to amplifying on this gun control debate. Which is in -- look at the Las Vegas rampage. The immediate response of our elected officials, particularly Republicans, is we have to protect the rights of our citizens of those constitutional guarantees.
When it comes to immigrants who -- who perpetrate these crimes, who are here legally, we throw all of that out and say, "Let's do whatever we can, whether it works or not, in order to prevent something like this from happening again." When it comes to gun control, nobody wants to do that. They say, "Oh, no, it doesn't work. You shouldn't do something that doesn't work."
HARLOW: Phil Mudd, through his answer about would you send this guy to Guantanamo yesterday, the president was positing that may work better. A military tribunal may work better. No facts bear that out.
Two examples: Look at the Tsarnaev -- Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Convicted, death penalty conviction and sentence after two years. You've got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, still -- still -- waiting for a trial, 16 years after 9/11.
[07:15:00] And then just look at the big numbers. Look at federal terrorism cases since 2001 in this country: 600 convictions. Almost none overturned. And then you've got eight convictions down in Guantanamo. Three of them overturned on appeal. Nothing backs what the president says. But to Chris's point, politically helps him. This is everything anti-
Obama wanting to shut down Gitmo. He said he'd throw the bad dudes in there. Is it anything but that?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think it is. He wants to look tough. If you want to be tough, if you want to be tough, I'd suggest throwing a fact on the table. And the facts are what you describe, that someone who is a counterterrorism practitioner, I'd like to have a couple of characteristics that we define success by. That is how many people do we prosecutors, how quickly we prosecute them, how many we throw -- how many we throw in jail. What's the percentage success rate of prosecution?
MUDD: How long did they serve. If you look at federal prosecutions after 9/11, hundreds of people prosecuted, prosecuted relatively quickly in the American system. Cheap compared to Guantanamo Bay. And as you heard, the prosecutor yesterday talking about the potential charges in this case. That's life sentence or that's potentially death penalty.
Contrast that to Guantanamo Bay. It takes forever. Fewer than 20 prosecuted. And it costs an arm and a leg. So this is...
CUOMO: But if I'm arguing the other side I say, "That's on you people, on the establishment. You take too long. These guys are the new pedophiles, terrorists. We hate them. Treat them terribly. Put them in bad places."
AVLON: I get the raw politics of it. We all get the base of it. But I think what Phil Mudd is saying is facts matter. You know, you can't say the military tribunals are more efficient invoking justice when it's...
CUOMO: It will be when I run this.
AVLON: See, that's implicit...
CUOMO: It will be on my watch. I won't be like you guys.
AVLON: It doesn't -- his promising or projecting some kind of new future where he's -- you know, separation of powers and all the frustrations that constrain an executive by design don't apply. That's not reality either.
We have a system in this country rooted in law, rooted in history, rooted in tradition. And he may play to the base with devastating effect on this, but it's our job, as citizens as well as journalists, to point out that facts matter.
CUOMO: I hear you. But here's a fact also, guys. And I get it. And yes, I'm devil -- I'm devil's advocating. We need to, because it's what's going all around us in our society. Here's his fact. I've got a brown -- because he really isn't -- but I've got a brown guy with a beard who's a Muslim who said he wanted to kill us, and he's proud of it, Phil Mudd.
That's the only fact I need if I want to advance President Trump's position to treat this guy like what he is. "He's a savage." That's -- that's his position. How do you deal with that?
MUDD: First of all, I look at it, and let me throw another fact on the table. You look at things where the president has promised something on Twitter, and nothing has happened. Significant areas, Iran nuclear deal, nothing is really happening.
CUOMO: He has second-line problems. No question about how he gets it done, how he's going to deliver.
MUDD: That's right.
CUOMO: But that first line is strong in a country that is increasingly xenophobic and has problems with people like this.
MUDD: that is -- what I'm telling you is if you're looking at this in fear, as an American, saying he's going to undercut the American judicial system, look at the record of months in office. I mentioned the issue of Iran. China is a currency manipulator. Ain't going to happen. Transgenders out of the military, that's not going to happen. I'm going to sign repeal and replace -- repeal and replace right away. That's not going to happen.
My point is he's looking at this and saying, "I've got a good talking point." If you think this guy is going to Guantanamo bay, that is not going to happen.
GREGORY: Also, guys, also remember, this was not about military tribunals. It was about just putting them away, keeping them off the battlefield. And it has limited effectiveness, as we've seen. KSM is never getting a trial. And so that's a piece of this, which is how do you prevent these from happening?
CUOMO: Strong facts. Strong arguments.
HARLOW: Facts first.
CUOMO: Tested here at the table.
AVLON: That's right.
CUOMO: You decide at home.
Now, and more insight into where the president's head is on this. I am putting arguments out there that he's saying. But he's saying it himself, and he's saying it to reporters. OK?
Maggie Haberman is home, recovering from surgery, and she gets a phone call from the president of the United States through his assistant. He wants to talk to "The New York Times," specifically to Maggie, about this. And he says, "I'm not under investigation." You read this in Maggie's piece. As you know, it, the investigation, has nothing to do with us. Now
that's not true. The special prosecutor is looking at the dismissal of Comey, by all indications. What are those indications? The documents that he's asking for tells you which way he's going. So the president in that context must be under investigation. But what does Maggie Haberman have to say?
CNN political analyst joins us now by phone, once again breaking records for recovery. I couldn't even look at people, let alone talk on the phone when I was in the shape that you're in. But you got a call from the president. Please tell us about it, my friend, and I hope you're doing well.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via phone): Thanks, Chris. Thanks for having me.
So just to add a little bit of clarity, he -- I had been asked to help out on one thing by my -- by my editor. I got a phone call to a staff member. I was not expected to get a call from him until the phone rang.
And it was his assistant looking to have a conversation. You know, he clearly, as you know very well, he loves feeling like he can control a narrative. And clearly, the stories about how angry he is about all of this, true or not, were bothering him.
[07:20:12] He was projecting a very clear aura of calm. Whether or not that was true or not, obviously what he wanted to get across, I will say, and I think you know this, as well, he is one of these people who vents and sort of blows off steam, and it can be a pretty messy storm. And then he's fine. And then the storm will come back again later.
My sense in talking to a lot of aides in the White House, is how he has been dealing with. Look, they knew that an indictment was likely coming against Paul Manafort. Rick Gates, his deputy, was not a surprise them, in terms of his guilty pleas.
And certainly, the fact that Clovis had gone in to be interviewed, They tend to go hand in hand. I think that George Papadopoulos, foreign policy aide, surprised them in terms of his guilty plea. And certainly, the fact that Sam Clovis had gone in to be interviewed, not that he might be. Just the way it happened caught people off guard.
But you are dealing with a White House that has been in this surreal, you know, having to go to work every day, knowing that the investigation is going on for a while. I think there's a difference between how Trump is feeling about it and how his aides are, which is he's watching a lot of television and he's paying very close attention to the coverage about this.
CUOMO: Let me ask you something. When he was talking about the fact that he's not under investigation, did you feel that he was putting that on you as a suggestion, you know, that he wanted to make that known, make that the case. Or do you think he actually believes that he's not under investigation? HABERMAN: You know, it is often very hard to tell the difference
between whether he actually believes the things he is saying that, you know, in some cases are demonstrably not true.
And in this case, all evidence points to the fact that it's not true. Though federal prosecutors are not able to actually say that in terms of how they deal with the media.
I couldn't tell. I think he wants people to think that he is not -- and I think he wants to convince himself that he is not to some extent. But as you said before, this is an investigation that touches on him. And we have heard it from several people that obstruction of justice is one aspect that's being looked at that points right at the president.
CUOMO: What was your biggest take away from this? I mean, a little unusual. You have amazing access to the president. And journalism is better for it. But this call had to be a little bit of a surprise. What was your take on what's going on?
HABERMAN: Yes. I mean, I -- I mean, my take is just that I think that he -- he's trying to manage the one thing he can try to manage in his mind, which is, you know, how his own words are interpreted. I think he really was upset about two stories. There were "The Washington Post" story and a "Vanity Fair" story, both of which portrayed him as sort of, you know, lashing out and in a constant state of freak-out.
And again, my understanding is that it's not true. You know, I think that it is certainly true that he is mad. I certainly think it's true that he's frustrated by this. But he, I think, felt like -- he didn't say this. This is my read. I think as he heads to this Asia trip, stories about him, you know, out of control and unable to do anything, you know, and just sort of sitting here watching this as a spectator, I think, makes him feel helpless.
You know, he's about to go on on this very lengthy diplomatic trip. And I think he wants to try to project some aura of strength, regardless of what's happening.
CUOMO: It doesn't sound like he gave you a whole lot of basis to report that he isn't consumed or, slash, distracted, as General Kelly said.
HABERMAN: He's definitely consumed and distracted. I think the difference is whether he's running around yelling. And I think that's sort of the distinction.
But look, he's obsessed with his own coverage, and this is another element of it. He's sitting around watching a lot of television about this. Absolutely.
CUOMO: Did he -- did he talk at all? You know, you mentioned this Asia trip. And you're spot on about its importance. I mean, especially early on in an administration like this. This many countries, this many issues on the table. And he may well meet with Vladimir Putin on this trip.
Did he talk about that at all? Was it all, in his focus, in terms of how he's getting prepared for it and his level of confidence going into it?
HABERMAN: No. He referenced -- he just referenced that he was excited to go, made some brief reference to China. But there was nothing -- there was nothing specific. There was nothing to discern about it.
You know, everyone has heard -- Jeff Zeleny has reported this, as well. That prepping him has been difficult for this. Prepping him under any circumstance is difficult, because he has a limited attention span. But I think this has been harder right now. But I think that most aides think that this is a good thing to try to shift his attention off of current events at home.
CUOMO: Maggie, calling in on convalescence, above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you, my friend. A speedy recovery to you. I look forward to seeing you on set soon. Thank you for the reporting.
CUOMO: All right. Be well.
And a quick point here. Just, you know, we have a blessing on this show. As you know, the president is often watching.
[07:25:06] CUOMO: I get to speak directly to the president of the United States. He should want to be under investigation. And here's why. I know that comes with an ugly patina.
HARLOW: Why, counselor?
CUOMO: Here's why. Because what he wants at the end of this day is for the special counsel to be able to go to Rod Rosenstein. Because remember, that's his mandate. He doesn't have to come to us. The idea that we will learn what he finds, that's not necessarily true. The duty under the mandate of the -- of the creation of this special counsel is just a report to the A.G.'s office.
But for him to be able to say, "We looked at Trump 100 different ways from Sunday. He is clean on this. He is clear of this."
HARLOW: Then there will be no question.
CUOMO: Then there is no question. "I let you look. I helped you look. You found nothing."
HARLOW: The White House gave you all these documents, et cetera. Intrepid reporter, Maggie is. Getting the call.
All right. So President Trump says justice must be swift and strong for terrorists in the wake of the attack in New York City. And then late last night he called for the New York attacker to be executed. That came after he called the U.S. justice system a joke and a laughingstock.
Let's discuss this and more with independent Senator Angus King of Maine.
Senator, it is nice to have you here. We have a lot to get to. Let's begin with the president overnight taking to Twitter, speaking to the American people and saying that the attacker in this city should get the death penalty.
Now, every legal mind you talk to says that just made it harder for the prosecution because it is an easy argument to say that taints the jury pool. Big picture, do you have concerns about that? Do you have concerns about him weighing in on a criminal investigation like this 24 hours after?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: You know, I can only second what you have already been told. You can already sort of dictate the provision and the defense, saying the jury has been tainted by this. It was really unnecessary.
We've got the scenario case up in Boston where, indeed, the death penalty has been imposed. I mean, the whole idea that somehow sending somebody to Guantanamo is going to speed the process is actually just the opposite. The federal prosecution system has had enormous success. I don't know, 90, 95 percent conviction rate and terrorism cases and on a timely basis.
If the president said, "I want to send this guy to a Caribbean island where he will probably never get prosecuted at a cost to the taxpayers of about $3 million a year," I mean, you know, because that's the reality. If you want a swift prosecution, the criminal justice system in New York is going to do it.
HARLOW: So the facts bear that out. We've been talking about it all morning. You only have eight convictions in 15 years in Gitmo. Three of them overturned on appeal. More than 600 terrorism convictions in federal court. Those are the facts.
The president, if he didn't know those facts, knows it know, because as Chris said he often watches this or he reads "The Post" this morning. But he still makes the argument. Is it just because it is politically advantageous for him. Because, you know, "Obama was going to shut down Gitmo, and I'm going to fill it with bad dudes," in the president's words. What is he doing then?
KING: I think a lot of this is just him. It just comes out. I think perhaps you're making -- you're overthinking it in terms of strategy and political strategy. You know, he just comes out with what's on the top of his head. And I think that's the way he feels.
I've got to say, he said a lot of things that bother a lot of people. And it bothered me, frankly, over the last eight months. The idea of our criminal justice system being a joke and a laughingstock. You know, that's the FBI. It's our U.S. attorneys. It's our judges, juries. That was -- that was just corrosive of understanding and support for the -- for the system, which is what we -- what we're supposed to be fighting for.
KING: It sounds like, Senator, you're saying something is different this time. But when I think back to the campaign at the beginning of his presidency, and he's been attacking the judiciary, Judge Curiel. He's been attacking the, you know, intelligence community for months and months and months. Is it different this time, what he has said in the last 24 hours?
KING: I can't explain it. But somehow last night, it just -- maybe -- I just think what we're talking about here is the Constitution. And it's not a pesky annoyance. It's -- it's who we are. It's what we fight for. It's what the flag symbolizes. And to say we're going to, in effect, what he was saying was that pesky Constitution and those constitutional rights, you know, we've got to get rid of them. And that's just -- as I say, it's corrosive and it undermines public respect for institutions generally, and I think that's what really bothers me.
HARLOW: Does it make -- is it just the rhetoric, Senator, that makes you nervous and uncomfortable? Or is it that you have gotten a sense from his language and what he said in the last 24 hours, that he actually means it. That he's actually going to follow through.
KING: Well, I think he does mean it, but he also is giving permission for a lot of people in the country to say, you know, similar things or sort of think similar things. It kind of opens the door. And in my view, the president ought to be defending our institutions and talking about imperfections, if they're things in the immigration system or the justice system that we can improve.