Lawyers for the alleged terrorist who killed eight people with a box truck in Manhattan last year say President Donald Trump's tweets calling for the death penalty and skewering Attorney General Jeff Sessions harms Sessions' ability to make an impartial decision on how to handle his case.
The attorneys for Sayfullo Saipov point to several tweets in the aftermath of the attack where Trump advocated for a quick execution. They also point to a recent tweet deriding Sessions for not thinking of the political implications for his decision to indict two Republican congressman.
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They want the judge to either rule out the possibility of the death penalty or appoint an independent prosecutor in the case.
"The combination of President Trump's demand that the government Kill Mr. Saipov, his more recent tweets advocating that political calculations should inform Justice Department charging decisions, and his personal attorney's confirmation that Attorney General Sessions might be fired for not doing as the President wishes, make it impossible for Attorney General Sessions to fulfill his statutory duty to fairly and independently decide whether to seek the death penalty against Mr. Saipov," the public defenders, led by Jennifer Brown, wrote in a court filing.
Saipov, 29, has been charged with killing eight people and injuring a dozen others after he drove a pickup truck down a bicycle path near the World Trade Center on October 31. Saipov faces a 22-count indictment, which includes murder and terror-related charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
Saipov, who told investigators he was motivated to use the truck by watching ISIS videos, was arrested during the incident. After his truck hit a school bus, stopping it in its tracks, he exited the vehicle, and a New York police officer shot him.
"As soon as Mr. Saipov was arrested, President Trump, without knowing a thing about Mr. Saipov and barely anything about the crime itself, peremptorily instructed his Attorney General to "move fast" to execute Saipov, according to the document.
After the arrest, the President tweeted, "NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang his ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!"
The filing also mentioned a tweet made Monday where he criticized Sessions after federal indictments were brought against two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Duncan Hunter and Rep. Chris Collins.
Hunter and his wife were indicted in August for allegedly using $250,000 in campaign funds to furnish their lifestyle, federal prosecutors said. Collins was charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements, according to prosecutors.
"Two long running, Obama era investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the MidTerms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department," Trump tweeted. "Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff..."
"A decision not to seek death would expose the decision-maker to a blaze of public scorn and ridicule as well as the possible loss of employment. That taint on the charging process cannot be tolerated," according to the court filing.
The Justice Department has not responded to a request for comment.