Politics & Government

NYC suspect should be held as enemy combatant, Graham tells Trump

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is calling on President Donald Trump to intervene in the investigation of Tuesday’s suspected terror attack in New York and hold the man accused of killing eight people as an enemy combatant.

Graham called on Trump to hold Sayfullo Saipov without access to an attorney so he can be questioned by U.S. intelligence about the Halloween attack. Saipov, a native of Uzbekistan, is accused of driving onto a New York City bike path and striking several pedestrians in the Halloween attack.

In a news release, South Carolina’s senator said the suspect reportedly had left a note pledging allegiance to the Islamic State terror group.

“Under the Law of War, an enemy combatant can be held and questioned for intelligence gathering purposes without a lawyer present,” said Graham, who was a military attorney in the Air Force. “Intelligence gathering is an important tool in disrupting and preventing future attacks.”

Graham may be hopeful the president will follow his advice. On Tuesday, Graham told Fox News, “One thing I like about President Trump is he understands we’re in a religious war.

“We’re fighting people who are compelled by their religious views to kill us all,” he said.

That doesn’t mean the United States should see itself as being at war with Islam. Instead, the country is at war with a “sect of Islam” that “their fellow Muslims hate ... more than we do,” Graham said.

Part of the solution would be to allow Trump’s travel ban for some Muslim-majority countries to go into effect, Graham said. The ban currently is tied up in court challenges.

“He should fight that all the way to the Supreme Court, to make sure we have extreme vetting from countries where radical Islam is a real problem,” Graham said.

Seven Muslim-majority countries would be affected by the ban, but not the suspect’s home country of Uzbekistan.

Graham is a one-time Trump critic who recently has gone on regular golf outings with the president. He has backed a tougher stance on terrorism in line with Trump’s rhetoric and opposed efforts by then-President Barack Obama to prosecute terror suspects in the civilian justice system.

“For eight years, the Obama administration turned the war into a crime,” Graham said. “The last thing I want (Saipov) to hear is that he has a right to a lawyer.”