Trump Pledges Support For London Following Terror Attack
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Let's turn now to how this attack is playing out here in the United States. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us now. Tam, what are U.S. officials saying?
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Well, there are official statements from the State Department. That statement says the United States condemns the cowardly attacks targeting innocent civilians in London. The Department of Homeland Security put out a statement saying that the secretary had been fully briefed on the incidents and the ongoing response.
And then this is notable. It says at this time, we have no information to indicate a specific credible terror threat in the United States. Defense Secretary James Mattis is traveling in Asia. And it was actually several hours after the news of the attack broke, reporters traveling with him asked him to weigh in, and he chose not to. This is what he said.
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JAMES MATTIS: I need to confirm everything. I like learning about something before I talk. So let me look into it.
KEITH: And President Trump also spoke with Prime Minister Theresa May. According to a readout from the White House, he offered his condolences, praised the first responders and offered the full support of the U.S. government in bringing those responsible to justice.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: In marked contrast to General Mattis, that isn't all we've heard from President Trump. He was tweeting about this in near real time yesterday. And he's picked back up this morning. What has he been saying?
KEITH: Yeah. So about an hour and a half after the first reports, President Trump retweeted a Drudge Report alert that said, fears of new terror attack after van mows down 20 people. Then the president began tweeting himself saying, quote, "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!" And then he did the more standard tweet, we are with you. God bless.
This morning he returned to Twitter with several tweets. One, he says, 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. And then he seemed to be criticizing the mayor of London saying in a tweet, quote, "at least seven dead and 48 wounded in terror attack, and mayor of London says there is, quote, 'no reason to be alarmed.'" That quote was taken out of context. What the London mayor was actually saying is that Londoners will see increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days and that there's no reason to be alarmed about that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is a pretty unusual response for a president when there's been a big incident like this in the country of an ally. But this isn't the first time Mr. Trump has weighed in on these sorts of incidents as they unfold.
KEITH: That's absolutely correct. Throughout the campaign, he would be sort of way ahead of what law enforcement was saying or what elected officials were saying - very quick to label incidents as terrorism before others were. And then more recently, on Thursday, he began his speech about the Paris Climate Accord by referencing what he called a terrorist incident at a casino in the Philippines. He said, quote, "it's really very sad as to what's going on throughout the world with terror."
Well, it turns out it wasn't terror. It was a robbery. And police in the Philippines are reporting that the attack was carried out by a heavily indebted Filipino man who was hooked on gambling. You know, President Trump sees many things through the prism of terrorism and the fight against ISIS, which he sees as this existential threat. And that continues to be a focus for him.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So he sometimes gets these things wrong. That reference to the travel ban - what's the status, briefly, of the president's executive order to ban refugees and visitors from six Muslim-majority countries?
KEITH: It's held up in the courts. Just late last week, the White House and the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to review it to hopefully - they want it to be overturned and allowed to go forward and actually go into place and that process will play out over weeks and months.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, that's NPR's Tamara Keith. Tam, thanks so much.
KEITH: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN ABERCROMBIE & MARC JOHNSON & PETER ERSKINE & JOHN SURMAN SONG, "PRELUDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.