Updated at 9:44 a.m. | President Trump used a series of Wednesday morning tweets to blame Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer for the deadly Islamic State-inspired attack in New York.
Trump wrote the suspect entered the United States via a program pushed by Democrats — but it was codified in a bipartisan bill that was made law by a Republican president.
At issue is the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, which New York truck attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbekistan native, reportedly used to get a permanent resident visa in 2010. The program is designed to increase the number of immigrants into the United States from countries that have a low U.S. immigration rate.
The president, appearing to respond to a “Fox & Friends” segment, put responsibility for that program and Saipov’s entrance into the U.S. on Schumer and congressional Democrats. In doing so, he made one of his most explicit calls yet for changes to the legal immigration system after having mostly called for measures to curb illegal immigration.
Watch: Schumer on Senate Floor — ‘Where is Your Leadership?’
Trump wrote that what he called the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program” is a “Chuck Schumer beauty,” adding, “I want merit based.”
The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter). @foxandfriends— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
“We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration,” Trump wrote in another tweet, dubbing the program Saipov allegedly used the “Democrat Lottery Systems.” He added the U.S. “must get MUCH tougher (and smarter).”
The president opted to start the day after the worst terrorist attack in his hometown since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks not by offering consoling words to the families of the victims or giving the New York area a presidential pep talk or even vowing to wipe ISIS off the planet. Instead, he sought to erode the “buck stops here” role of the presidency and deflect blame for the attack away from his administration.
Two hours later, the president offered his first message of the day on the terror attack, tweeting a video of a moment of silence on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Trump’s charge against Schumer begins to take on water when the origins of the visa program are examined, however.
It was established under the Immigration Act of 1990. That bill received bipartisan support in both chambers, getting 264 votes in the House and 89 in the Senate.
What’s more, it was signed into law by a Republican president, George H.W. Bush.
It was not immediately clear if Trump knew that before he fired off the tweets, but it appeared clear he was watching the Fox News Channel morning show while doing so. He quoted retired Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer in one tweet, who appeared on the show criticizing the minority leader around the time Trump posted his Schumer-blaming tweets.
Trump and Shaffer may be pinning blame on Schumer for resisting efforts to end the program in a possible immigration bill that could come up next year.
Schumer responded to the president’s tweet by lashing back at Trump and defending his belief “that immigration is good for America.”
I guess it's not too soon to politicize a tragedy.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 1, 2017
“President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be focusing on the real solution — anti-terrorism funding — which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget,” Schumer said in a statement. “I’m calling on the President to immediately rescind his proposed cuts to this vital anti-terrorism funding.”
Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who announced last week he would not run for re-election next year, called out the president on his attacks on Schumer, saying the “Gang of Eight” bipartisan group of senators — of which Schumer was a member — actually tried to end the program in their failed immigration efforts.
Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) November 1, 2017
Another Republican “Gang of Eight” member backed up Flake’s assertion on Fox News.
“It makes no sense to hand out visas and green cards this way. We want merit-based immigration. I’ve been fighting for that since 2006,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said. “When it comes time to deal with then DACA/Dream Act kids, that part of the deal should be to do away with the lottery system.”
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.
Watch: 10 Years of Congressional Efforts on Gun Control