Trump decries 'Schumer beauty' visa program after NYC terror attack

President Trump lashed out on Wednesday at Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., suggesting he was responsible for protecting the U.S. visa program reportedly used by the suspect in the Manhattan terror attack the day before.

“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty,” Trump tweeted. “I want merit based.”

“I guess it’s not too soon to politicize a tragedy,” Schumer, the Senate minority leader, tweeted in response.

Officials say the 29-year-old suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, killed eight people and wounded 13 others while driving a rented pickup truck along a bike path in lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon. Saipov emerged from the pickup truck after ramming into a school bus, brandishing what police later determined were fake weapons. He was shot in the abdomen and taken into custody. Authorities found a note left by the suspect near the scene claiming allegiance to ISIS.

According to ABC News’ New York City affiliate, Saipov, a legal permanent resident, immigrated from his native Uzbekistan in March 2010 through the program, which is designed to increase the number of immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it appears Saipov was self-radicalized after coming to the country.

At a press briefing Wednesday morning, Cuomo said Trump’s tweets “were not helpful” and that they “politicized the situation.”

“I am bothered by an attempt by anyone to politicize this,” Cuomo said, adding: “That plays in to hands of terrorists.”

“We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter),” Trump tweeted, tagging his favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends.”

The president also relayed an apparent “Fox & Friends” quote from retired Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer attacking Schumer.

“We will stop this craziness!” the president added.

The Washington Post notes that in 2013, Schumer was among a group of senators who introduced a bipartisan proposal to revamp U.S. immigration laws that would have eliminated the diversity lottery. The proposal passed the Senate but died in the House.

In a separate statement, Schumer accused Trump of proposing cuts to counterterrorism funding.

“I have always believed, and continue to believe, that immigration is good for America,” Schumer said. “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. I’m calling on the President to immediately rescind his proposed cuts to this vital anti-terrorism funding.”

President Trump; Sen. Chuck Schumer (Photos: Evan Vucci/AP, Andrew Harnik/AP)
President Trump; Sen. Chuck Schumer (Photos: Evan Vucci/AP, Andrew Harnik/AP)

In June, Trump proposed cutting more than $150 million from U.S. antiterrorism grants, the so-called Urban Area Security Initiative, and requiring large cities — such as New York — to pay 25 percent of the costs.

The grant program was created by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but it was scaled back during his second term. In 2017, President Barack Obama proposed even deeper cuts to the antiterror grants.

Hours after Tuesday’s attack, Trump tweeted that he had ordered the Department of Homeland Security to “step up” its “extreme vetting program.” The president did not specify what those steps would be.

On Wednesday morning, Schumer addressed the attack and Trump’s response in a string of nearly two dozen tweets.

“The president ought to stop tweeting and start leading,” Schumer told reporters at separate press briefing. “The American people long for leadership not divisiveness not finger pointing not name calling. This is a tragedy, it’s less than a day after it occurred and he can’t refrain from his nasty divisive habits.”

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he is starting the process of terminating the lottery program.

“I am going to ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program,” he said. “Diversity sounds nice. It’s not nice. It’s not good.”

— With Liz Goodwin contributing reporting from Capitol Hill

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