In the direct aftermath of the deadliest terrorist attack to hit New York City since 9/11, President Donald Trump was briefed by his advisers, pledged to ramp up counter-terrorism measures, and launched a political broadside against a top Democrat after being angered by his favorite morning Fox News show.
One thing he did not do was place a call to the elected officials representing the district, city, or state.
Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) had not heard from either the president or an official at the White House, their offices confirmed to The Daily Beast Wednesday morning. Gillibrand’s office said she had been in touch with the FBI to discuss the terrorist attack on the Lower West Side, which resulted in the death of eight pedestrians and cyclists who were plowed down by an ISIS-sympathizing motorist. She also had a call slated with the Department of Homeland Security for later in the day.
A spokesman for Schumer, meanwhile, said that they had heard nothing from Trump, save the early morning tweet the president sent in which he attacked the Senate Minority Leader for supporting the Diversity Immigrant Visa program that the attacker, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, had used to come to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010.
Schumer did get a briefing from the federal counter-terrorism authorities after the incident took place, the aide added, though it was the Senator who had to initiate it. “We don’t fault them for how they handled it,” the aide said. “Chuck was briefed yesterday a couple of hours after it happened. They had a job to do.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio both said that they had not heard from Trump on Wednesday morning, though Cuomo said at a Wednesday press conference that he had spoken with acting DHS chief Elaine Duke. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), whose district office is just blocks from where the attack occurred and who attended Stuyvesant High School—basically, the site of the attack—had also not heard from Trump. An aide told The Daily Beast that the congressman had been “in touch with the mayor’s office and the governor’s office.” But, the aide added, “we’ve not gotten anything from the White House.”
The White House press office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who came to Schumer’s defense on CNN late Wednesday morning, hadn’t heard from the president as of early Wednesday, his office confirmed. King is a Republican in the New York delegation who has supported Trump.
That the president launched a broadside against Schumer without reaching out to him or other New York officials in the aftermath of the terrorist incident wasn’t a complete shock to those officials. “Par for the course,” is how a Schumer aide described the attack, saying they expected Trump to tweet about the killings but didn’t anticipate such a frontal assault.
But it still places the President on tricky and fairly-unfamiliar political ground. In the aftermath of similar incidents, it is customary for a president to adopt a unifying message, as well as to demonstrate an acumen for managing a delicate situation. Trump himself spoke to the mayor of Las Vegas in the immediate aftermath of the recent shooting there that resulted in the death of 59 people and 500 injured.
In other cases of horrific murder, however, Trump has been far more distant. He didn’t speak to the mayor of Charlottesville in the days after a white nationalist gathering erupted in violence and a Nazi killing one individual in that city. That mayor, much like De Blasio, had been incredibly critical of President Trump.
Trump wasn’t just sitting around doing nothing on Tuesday night. He tweeted several times on Tuesday night about the attack. And he placed at least one call to a non-New York official: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. According to Graham, he and Trump spoke on Tuesday evening about moving away from Obama administration efforts to treat domestic terrorism as a criminal, rather than a military, offense.
"If you take up arms against the United States in the name of radical Islam, you should be treated as a terrorist," Graham told reporters on Wednesday. Trump appeared to back that proposal in remarks at a Wednesday afternoon cabinet meeting.
“We need punishment that is far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now,” the president said. “We need quick justice and we need strong justice…What we have right now is a joke and it is a laughingstock, it’s no wonder this stuff takes place.”
Trump added that he would “certainly consider” sending Habibullaevic to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
He also addressed the program through which Habibullaevic had obtained a U.S. visa. “I am today starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program. I am going to ask congress to immediately initiate work to eliminate this program,” he said.
Trump’s interest in that program appears to have been spurred by a Wednesday morning segment on Fox & Friends, where the hosts, while interviewing former Trump White House aide Seb Gorka, noted Schumer’s prior support for the program, setting Trump on his early morning angry tweetstorm.
“Diversity lottery,” Trump mused at the cabinet meeting. “It sounds nice, it’s not nice or good.”
UPDATE: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Wednesday that Trump was not blaming Chuck Schumer for the attack but merely spotlighting a policy hole he wanted fixed. She also said that Trump has spoken with both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo. Schumer’s office told The Daily Beast that he had still not been contacted by Trump as of Wednesday afternoon.