President Donald Trump called for an end to the United States’ Diversity Visa Lottery on Wednesday in response to revelations that the alleged attacker in Tuesday’s terrorist attack in New York entered the U.S. from Uzbekistan through the program.
Trump spent more than 15 minutes before a cabinet meeting giving a statement about the incident before accepting three questions from reporters about the attack, reportedly executed by Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old who arrived in the United States in 2010. Trump attempted to end his statement at the 15:55 mark without taking questions, but ultimately chose to answer one main question and two follow-ups on the attack and one question and one follow-up on the Federal Reserve before ignoring any further requests.
Calling Saipov “an animal”, Trump pledged that his administration was working with federal and New York officials to investigate both the attack and the attacker. He then went on to attack the Diversity Lottery Program, which he had spent the morning attacking on social media.
“I’m going to ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program: Diversory — Diversity Lottery Program,” Trump said. “It sounds nice; it’s not nice. It’s not good, it hasn’t been good. We’ve been against it, so we want to immediately work with Congress on terminating it, getting rid of it.
“We want a merit-based program where people come into our country based on merit. We want to get rid of chain migration. This man that came in, or whatever you want to call him, brought in with him other people. He was the primary point of contact for, and this is preliminarily, 23 people that came in with him. That’s not acceptable, so we want to get rid of chain migration.”
Trump did not go into details about what a merit-based program might involve, nor did he ever cite where he had seen or heard that 23 people had come into the United States with Saipov, who would have been 22 at the time of his arrival. Accounts of Saipov from those with whom he stayed suggest that he was without family in the United States until getting married and having children, while ABC reports found that the number was accurate, but only two of the 23 people were in the FBI’s counterterrorism files.
Instead of clarifying details, Trump moved to attacking Democrats with claims of obstruction.
“There are bills already about ending chain migration. We have a lot of good bills that are being stopped by Democrats because they’re obstructionists. Honestly, they don’t want to do what’s right for our country. We need strength, we need resolve, and we have to stop them, so we’re going to get rid of this lottery program as soon as possible.”
Earlier in the day, Trump laid the blame at the feet of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for sponsoring a bill in 1990 that helped create the lottery system. However, that bill passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed by a Republican president, George H.W. Bush.
Trump’s claim received pushback from an unlikely source, as senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) came to Schumer’s defense, pointing out that he and Schumer had been part of the so-called “Gang of 8” and had attempted to eliminate the lottery program in 2013, but their attempt had died in the Republican-controlled House. Trump has previously taken a position in opposition to the Gang of 8 bill, both as a candidate and as president.
Trump Calls Current System of Punishment a ‘Joke’
Trump used the tragedy in New York to again rage at political correctness and claim that the United States needs to adopt tougher policies in an effort to stop international incidents from happening. Despite Saipov coming from Uzbekistan, which was not on the list of Trump’s travel ban, he blamed a lack of action for the incident.
“We’re so politically correct that we’re afraid to do anything, and that’s not just our country. That’s other countries too that are having similar problems.
“That was a horrible event, and we have to stop it and stop it cold. We have to come up with punishment that’s far greater than what these animals are getting right now. They’ll go through court for years, and at the end, who knows what happens. We need quick justice and we need strong justice, much quicker and much stronger than what we have right now. What we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock. No wonder so much of this stuff takes place, and I think I can speak for plenty of other countries that are in the same situation.”
Trump Pushes Tax Reform and Cuts
Trump spent the majority of the rest of his statement focusing on tax reform. He pledged that Republicans will be introducing a bill on tax reform this week that would make the tax code “simple and fair so that the vast majority of Americans can file their taxes on a single sheet of paper.”
He also pledged to reduce taxes on American businesses, repeating an inaccurate claim that the United States is the highest-taxed nation in the world and pledging that a major company would soon be announcing that it would be returning to the United States.
He then attacked the United States’ trade deals, focusing specifically on NAFTA and deals with China.
“Every trade deal we have is disastrous,” he said. “If we have support from Congress, we’ll make trade deals that are horror shows into very good and respectable trade deals that are good for both countries and in fact many countries.”
Trump Teases His Federal Reserve Choice
Trump said that he would announce his choice for the head of the Federal Reserve on Thursday, but did not give any details. Should he choose not to re-appoint current head Janet Yellen, it would mark the first time since 1979 that the Federal Reserve’s chairperson was not reappointed for a second term in the role.
Trump did take a quick question on his thoughts about Yellen.
“I think Janet Yellen is excellent,” Trump said. However, when asked if he would re-appoint her to her position, he didn’t make any commitment to her.
“I didn’t say that; I think she’s excellent.” He then ignored a question on whether Jerome Powell, Trump’s rumored favorite, would be the selection.
Trump Says He’ll Consider Gitmo for Saipov
Upon ending the statement, Trump took a question about the attack after several attempts, “Do you want the assailant sent to Gitmo?” Trump replied, “I would certainly consider that, yes. Send him to Gitmo.”
The reporter then followed up by asking how the diversity lottery program affected Saipov. “They say he came in through that program,” Trump said. “What we are demanding is merit-based immigration. We want people that are going to help our country, we want people that are going to keep our country safe. We don’t want lotteries where the wrong people are in the lotteries, and guess what? Who are the suckers that get those people?
“We want a merit-based system, and we do not want chain migration where somebody like him will ultimately be allowed to bring in many, many members of his family, and we don’t want that.”
The reporter then pressed as to whether Trump believed Saipov’s family represented a threat. “They could,” the president said. “He did.” Trump did not answer a question as to whether he had details that suggest Saipov’s family was a threat.