How Trump’s death penalty tweets raise concerns about a tainted trial

On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump tweeted that the man suspected of killing eight people on a crowded Manhattan bike lane should receive the death penalty — a move that some worried could complicate future legal proceedings.

“NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room,” Trump wrote in a rare late-night tweet. “He killed eight people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!”

The tweet closely resembled comments Trump had made earlier that day at a cabinet meeting, which the White House had quickly sought to clarify.

“The point he was making today, he supports, or would support, that, but he wasn’t necessarily advocating for that,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

57 PHOTOS
Truck plows through New York City bike path in terror attack
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Truck plows through New York City bike path in terror attack
Police investigate a vehicle allegedly used in a ramming incident on the West Side Highway in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Parents pick up their children from Public School 89 near the scene where a truck plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
All media responding to the incident in Lower Manhattan are asked to meet DCPI reps at Chambers Street and Greenwich Street.

Photo: Martin Speechley/Office of the Deputy Commissioner Public Information (DCPI)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Emergency personal respond after reports of multiple people hit by a truck after it plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. According to reports up to six people may have been killed. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Police gather at the scene after reports of multiple people injured after a truck plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 6 dead and 11 people have been injured. (Photo by Andy Kiss/Getty Images)
NYPD investigators are at the crime scene near a bike path in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
A police dog checks out vehicles along the street after a shooting incident in New York City, U.S. October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Police block off the street after a shooting incident in New York City, U.S. October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: NYPD officers respond after reports of multiple people hit by a truck after it plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. According to reports up to six people may have been killed. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Parents pick up their children from a local school after a shooting incident in New York City, U.S. October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A NYPD officer stands guard at a crime scene near a bike path where a body is covered with a white-sheet in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Police direct people away from the scene after reports of multiple people injured after a truck plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 6 dead and 11 people have been injured. (Photo by Andy Kiss/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: NYPD officers respond after reports of multiple people hit by a truck after it plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. According to reports up to six people may have been killed. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Children are evacuated from a school as Emergency personal Respond after a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a jogging and bike path in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and at least 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: NYPD officers respond after reports of multiple people hit by a truck after it plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. According to reports up to six people may have been killed. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Police investigate a vehicle allegedly used in a ramming incident on the West Side Highway in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A Home Depot truck which struck down multiple people on a bike path, killing several and injuring numerous others is seen as New York city first responders are at the crime scene in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Parents pick up their children from P.S./I.S.-89 school after a shooting incident in New York City, U.S. October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Parents pick up their children from P.S./I.S.-89 school after a shooting incident in New York City, U.S. October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Parents pick up their children from P.S./I.S.-89 school after a shooting incident in New York City, U.S. October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Emergency personal respond after a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a jogging and bike path in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and at least 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Emergency personal respond after a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a jogging and bike path in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and at least 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: A NYPD Officer blocks a street as emergency personal respond after a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a jogging and bike path in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and at least 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Parents pick up their children from school near the scene where a truck plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Emergency personal respond after a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a jogging and bike path in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and at least 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Law enforcement officers secure an area following an incident in New York on October 31, 2017. A pickup driver killed eight people in New York on Tuesday, mowing down cyclists and pedestrians, before striking a school bus in what officials branded a 'cowardly act of terror.' Eleven others were seriously injured in the broad daylight assault and first deadly terror-related attack in America's financial and entertainment capital since the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda hijackings brought down the Twin Towers. / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
An investigator walks past a crashed pickup truck following an incident in New York on October 31, 2017. A pickup driver killed eight people in New York on Tuesday, mowing down cyclists and pedestrians, before striking a school bus in what officials branded a 'cowardly act of terror.' Eleven others were seriously injured in the broad daylight assault and first deadly terror-related attack in America's financial and entertainment capital since the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda hijackings brought down the Twin Towers. / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers on Chambers Street surround the rented Home Depot Inc. pick up truck used in a motorist attack on the West Side of Manhattan in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. A man in a rented pickup truck drove onto a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center memorial and mowed down people Tuesday, killing at least eight and injuring several others. Photographer: Tim Fadek/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Emergency personal respond after a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a jogging and bike path in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and at least 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Parents pick up their children from Public School 89 near the scene where a truck plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Police surround the area where a truck plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 6 dead and 15 people have been injured.(Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Authorities walk just outside the perimeter of the crime scene following a shooting incident in New York on October 31, 2017. Several people were killed and numerous others injured in New York on Tuesday when a suspect plowed a vehicle into a bike and pedestrian path in Lower Manhattan, and struck another vehicle on Halloween, police said. A suspect exited the vehicle holding up fake guns, before being shot by police and taken into custody, officers said. The motive was not immediately apparent. / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Parents pick up their children from Public School 89 near the scene where a truck plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - OCTOBER 31 : Security forces cordon off the area after a man reportedly drove a pick up truck along a bike lane near the West Side Highway in New York City on October 31, 2017. Eight people were reportedly killed in the incident, at least 12 were injured. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Children are evacuated from a school as emergency personal respond after a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a jogging and bike path in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and at least 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: SWAT members check for explosives under a car one block from the scene where a truck plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 6 dead and 15 people have been injured.(Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Parents pick up their children from Public School 89 near the scene where a truck plowed through a bike path in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - OCTOBER 31 : Security forces cordon off the area after a man reportedly drove a pick up truck along a bike lane near the West Side Highway in New York City on October 31, 2017. Eight people were reportedly killed in the incident, at least 12 were injured. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: A NYPD Officer blocks a street as emergency personal respond after a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a jogging and bike path in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and at least 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - OCTOBER 31 : Security forces cordon off the area after a man reportedly drove a pick up truck along a bike lane near the West Side Highway in New York City on October 31, 2017. Eight people were reportedly killed in the incident, at least 12 were injured. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
New York Fire Department (NYFD) and New York Police Department (NYPD) vehicles sit parked on a blocked off street after a motorist attack on the West Side of Manhattan in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. A man in a rented pickup truck drove onto a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center memorial and mowed down people Tuesday, killing at least eight and injuring several others. Photographer: Tim Fadek/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A young girl reacts as police officers secure an area following a shooting incident in New York on October 31, 2017. Several people were killed and numerous others injured in New York on Tuesday after a vehicle plowed into a pedestrian and bike path in Lower Manhattan, police said. 'The vehicle struck multiple people on the path,' police tweeted. 'The vehicle continued south striking another vehicle. The suspect exited the vehicle displaying imitation firearms & was shot by NYPD.' / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - OCTOBER 31 : Security forces cordon off the area after a man reportedly drove a pick up truck along a bike lane near the West Side Highway in New York City on October 31, 2017. Eight people were reportedly killed in the incident, at least 12 were injured. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Police officers inspect a truck following a shooting incident in New York on October 31, 2017. Several people were killed and numerous others injured in New York on Tuesday when a suspect plowed a vehicle into a bike and pedestrian path in Lower Manhattan, and struck another vehicle on Halloween, police said. A suspect exited the vehicle holding up fake guns, before being shot by police and taken into custody, officers said. The motive was not immediately apparent. / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Emergency personal respond to reports of possible shooting in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. According to reports up to eight people may have been killed. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
A bicycles lies inside the roped off crime scene following a shooting incident in New York on October 31, 2017. Several people were killed and numerous others injured in New York on Tuesday when a suspect plowed a vehicle into a bike and pedestrian path in Lower Manhattan, and struck another vehicle on Halloween, police said. A suspect exited the vehicle holding up fake guns, before being shot by police and taken into custody, officers said. The motive was not immediately apparent. / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Police investigate a vehicle allegedly used in a ramming incident on the West Side Highway in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Police officers secure an area following a shooting incident in New York on October 31, 2017. Several people were killed and numerous others injured in New York on Tuesday after a vehicle plowed into a pedestrian and bike path in Lower Manhattan, police said. 'The vehicle struck multiple people on the path,' police tweeted. 'The vehicle continued south striking another vehicle. The suspect exited the vehicle displaying imitation firearms & was shot by NYPD.' / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers arrive at the scene following a shooting incident in New York on October 31, 2017. Multiple people were hurt in downtown Manhattan, US media reported after police confirmed that they were responding to reports of a shooting. Police said they had mobilized to the scene in Lower Manhattan and that one person was in custody, giving no further details. / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
People watch as police officers secure an area following a shooting incident in New York on October 31, 2017. Several people were killed and numerous others injured in New York on Tuesday after a vehicle plowed into a pedestrian and bike path in Lower Manhattan, police said. 'The vehicle struck multiple people on the path,' police tweeted. 'The vehicle continued south striking another vehicle. The suspect exited the vehicle displaying imitation firearms & was shot by NYPD.' / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
A pickup truck used in an attack sits on the intersection of West and Chambers Street in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 31 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 31: Media gathers at West St. and Murray St. after a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a jogging and bike path in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and at least 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 31: Police gather at Greenwich St. and Murray St. after a man driving a rental truck struck and killed eight people on a jogging and bike path in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017 in New York City. Officials are reporting up to 8 dead and at least 15 people have been injured. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
Parents pick up their children from P.S./I.S.-89 school after a shooting incident in New York City, U.S. October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Parents pick up their children from P.S./I.S.-89 school after a shooting incident in New York City, U.S. October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Parents pick up their children from P.S./I.S.-89 school after a shooting incident in New York City, U.S. October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
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By Thursday morning, Trump had dialed back his position considerably, tweeting that he would “love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the federal system.”

But the damage might already be done — and Trump of all people should know that, because he’s gotten in trouble for this kind of thing before.

It’s a widely known but unofficial rule that presidents shouldn’t weigh in on the guilt or innocence of a defendant, because of the influence their high seat holds. A declaration of guilt, for example, could sway the public’s inherent bias, making jury selection far more difficult down the road.

There’s also ample historical precedent for this exact type of scenario. In 1970, Richard Nixon made an off-the-cuff remark at a press briefing that Charles Manson was “a man who was guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason.”

The comments later spurred defense attorneys to move for a mistrial, with Manson lawyer Paul Fitzgerald telling reporters, “If we’re going to have the chief executive of this nation categorically or uncategorically speculate on people’s guilt, we ought to abandon this court system. Maybe President Nixon in a news conference ought to determine whether these people are guilty.”

Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, also toed the line in 2009 when he appeared to prejudge the suspected Sept. 11 terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as guilty, saying that he wouldn’t find it “offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.”

Obama, who practiced as a lawyer before his presidency, quickly walked back the comments.

“I’m not going to be in that courtroom,” he said. “That’s the job of the prosecutors, the judge and the jury.”

And although he has only held the office of the president for less than a year, Trump himself has also run afoul of the legal system in the past, with comments pertaining to the trial of accused army deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

31 PHOTOS
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his desertion case
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Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his desertion case
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl leaves the courthouse after the first day of sentencing proceedings in his court martial was adjourned at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Eugene Fidell (R), U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's civilian defense attorney, arrives with Bergdahl's judge advocate Lt. Col. Franklin Rosenblatt (L) at the courthouse for the start of sentencing proceedings in his court martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
U.S. Army Private Bowe Bergdahl watches as one of his captors displays his identity tag to the camera at an unknown location in Afghanistan, July 19, 2009. The U.S. military denounced on Sunday the release of the video showing a soldier captured in Afghanistan, describing the images as Taliban propaganda that violated international law. REUTERS/via Reuters TV (AFGHANISTAN MILITARY CONFLICT)
FT. BRAGG, NC - JULY 7: U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bowdrie 'Bowe' Bergdahl (right), 30 of Hailey, Idaho, leaves the Ft. Bragg military courthouse during a recess in a pretrial military hearing on July 7, 2016 in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and endangering troops stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in 2009, which landed him five years in Taliban captivity. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Army. U.S. Army/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 01: Yellow ribbons line Main Street as the hometown of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl awaits his homecoming on June 1, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. Yesterday he was released after a swap for 5 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay was arranged. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: President Barack Obama makes a statement about the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as his parents, Jani Bergdahl (L) and Bob Bergdahl (R) listen May 31, 2014 in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was held captive by militants for almost five years during the war in Afghanistan. (Photo by J.H. Owen-Pool/Getty Images)
Undated image from video footage taken from a Taliban-affiliated website shows a man who says he is Private First Class Bowe R. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban in southeastern Afghanistan in late June. The Afghan Taliban said on December 25, 2009 that they had issued a new video tape of Bergdahl and added that in it he asks his government to take part in a prisoner exchange deal. REUTERS via Reuters TV (CONFLICT CIVIL UNREST) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
An undated family handout of U.S. Army private Bowe Bergdahl, 23, who is being held captive and detained by Taliban forces in Afghanistan, released to Reuters on July 22, 2009. Afghanistan's Taliban called on Americans to put pressure on their government over the capture of Bergdahl, saying in an internet message released over the weekend that Washington could not win the war despite its modern weaponry. REUTERS/Family Handout (UNITED STATES MILITARY HEADSHOT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 13: (From left) Colonel Bradley Poppen, Ph.D., Major General Joseph P. DiSalvo, and Colonel Ronald N. Wool deliver a press conference at the Fort Sam Houston Golf Course July 13, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. They are reporting on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, his return to the United States, and reintegration at Brooke Army Medical Center after being a prison of war under Taliban captivity. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
FT. BRAGG, NC - JULY 7: U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bowdrie 'Bowe' Bergdahl, 30 of Hailey, Idaho, arrives at the Ft. Bragg military courthouse with his legal counsel for a pretrial military hearing on July 7, 2016 in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and endangering troops stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in 2009, which landed him five years in Taliban captivity. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
A billboard calling for the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held for nearly five years by the Taliban after being captured in Afghanistan, is shown in this picture taken near Spokane, Washington on February 25, 2014. Bergdahl has been released and is now in U.S. custody, President Barack Obama said on May 31, 2014. Picture taken on February 25, 2014. REUTERS/Jeff T. Green (UNITED STATES - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (R) is escorted as he arrives at the courthouse for the start of sentencing proceedings in his court martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (R) is escorted into the courthouse for the start of sentencing proceedings in his court martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
FORT BRAGG, NC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bowdrie 'Bowe' Bergdahl, 29 of Hailey, Idaho, leaves the Ft. Bragg military courthouse for a lunch recess after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy on October 16, 2017 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl could face life in prison stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in 2009, which landed him five years in Taliban captivity. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
FT. BRAGG, NC - DECEMBER 22: Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (2nd R) of Hailey, Idaho, leaves a military courthouse with his attorney Lt. Col. Franklin Rosenblatt (L) on December 22, 2015 in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl was arraigned on charges of desertion and endangering troops stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009. He was captured by the Taliban and spent five years in captivity before being freed in a prisoner exchange. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - JUNE 01: Bob Bergdahl speaks about the release of his son Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl during a press conference at Gouen Field national guard training facility on June 1, 2014 in Boise, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: President Barack Obama walks with the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Jani Bergdahl (L) and Bob Bergdahl (R) back to the Oval Office after making a statement regarding the release of Sgt. Bergdahl from captivity May 31, 2014 in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was held captive by militants for almost five years during the war in Afghanistan. (Photo by J.H. Owen-Pool/Getty Images)
FT. BRAGG, NC - DECEMBER 22: Military personnel leave the Ft. Bragg Courthouse after the arraignment of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on December 22, 2015 in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and endangering troops stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009. He was captured by the Taliban and spent five years in captivity before being freed in a prisoner exchange. Bergdahl now faces a maximum five-year penalty if ultimately convicted by a military jury of desertion, as well as potential life imprisonment on the more serious charge of misbehavior before the enemy. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - JUNE 01: Bob Bergdahl listens as his wife Jani reads a message to their son Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl during a press conference at Gouen Field national guard training facility on June 1, 2014 in Boise, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl who was captured in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province, Afghanistan was released yesterday after a swap for Taliban prisoners. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 01: A sign announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits in the window of the Hailey Paint and Supply store on Main Street June 1, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. Yesterday he was released after a swap for 5 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay was arranged. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 01: A sign announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits outside the Power House restaurant on Main Street June 1, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. Yesterday he was released after a swap for 5 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay was arranged. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 10: Senate Armed Services Committee Member U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) talks with reporters after being briefed by military officals about the prisoner exchange that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at the U.S. Capitol June 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. The trade of Bergdahl for five senior Taliban officials has angered some members of Congress because they were not informed of the swap beforehand. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 02: A poster showing support for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and signed by guests is taped to the wall inside Zaney's coffee shop where Bergdahl worked as a teenager on June 2, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was released from captivity on May 31 after being captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. He was released after a deal was worked out to swap his freedom for the freedom of 5 Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 02: The home of Bob and Jani Bergdahl is tucked into the base of a hill about 5 miles outside of town on June 2, 2014 near Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl's family and residents in the small town of Hailey are waiting for the return of Sgt. Bergdahl who was released from captivity on May 31. Bergdahl was captured by Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. He was released after a deal was worked out to swap his freedom for the freedom of 5 Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 02: The home of Bob and Jani Bergdahl is tucked into the base of a hill about 5 miles outside of town on June 2, 2014 near Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl's family and residents in the small town of Hailey are waiting for the return of Sgt. Bergdahl who was released from captivity on May 31. Bergdahl was captured by Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. He was released after a deal was worked out to swap his freedom for the freedom of 5 Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 10: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,speaks with reporters as he leaves the Senate Armed Services Committee briefing in the Capitol on the Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: (L-R) Andy Andrews, father of deceased U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, retired Army Spc. Cody Full, who served with Sgt. Bergdahl in Blackfoot Company, Second Platoon, and Mike Waltz, who commanded a Special Forces Company in Eastern Afghanistan in 2009, testify about the Bergdahl prisoner swap during a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Capitol Hill, June 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. The subcommittee heard testimony on Implications for U.S. National Security due to the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - SEPTEMBER 17: U.S. Army MSG Frank Minnie announces the ground rules to the media covering the Article 32 preliminary hearing in the Bowe Bergdahl desertion case at Fort Sam Houston on September 17, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas. The hearing will decide if Bergdahl will face a military trial for leaving his post in Afghanistan. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 13: A sign for Brooke Army Medical Center is seen on June 13, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl returned to the United States and is being cared for at Brooke Army Medical Center after being a prisoner of war for five years in Afghanistan. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
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In early 2017, lawyers for Bergdahl argued that comments Trump had made on the campaign trail about the former soldier being a “dirty rotten traitor,” — and an accompanying pantomime of a firing squad executing him — were grounds to dismiss the charges against their client. (Though a military judge called the comments “troubling,” he ruled that they weren’t enough to dismiss the case.)

Trump’s calls for the death penalty weren’t his only response to the Halloween violence — the deadliest instance of alleged terror New York City had seen since Sept. 11, 2001.

On Wednesday, the president also announced the suspension of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which the suspected attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, had allegedly used to obtain a visa and emigrate to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010.

“We are fighting hard for merit-based immigration, no more Democrat lottery systems,” Trump tweeted. “We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter).”

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