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Trump criticised for using London attacks to promote his own Muslim travel ban

The Guardian logo The Guardian 4/06/2017 Julian Borger

Video provided by Sky News

Donald Trump’s first response to the news of the London attacks was to retweet a conservative news website better known for sensationalism and partisanship than for accurate reporting.

Police officers are seen at London Bridge on Saturday night. © EPA Police officers are seen at London Bridge on Saturday night. It is unclear whether the president received any kind of intelligence briefing of his own about the attacks before he saw a tweet from the Drudge Report that said: “Fears of new terror attack after van ‘mows down 20 people’ on London Bridge.

That was what he passed on under his personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump.

Video provided by Reuters

Seventeen minutes after the Drudge tweet, White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted: “National Security team has briefed @POTUS on situation at #LondonBridge and will continue to provide updates.”

NBC felt the need to caution its audience about the credibility of the information the president was passing on. The channel put out its own tweet in response, saying: “Pres[ident] Trump has used Twitter to share news report on London incident. We aren’t relaying president’s retweet, as the info is unconfirmed.”

Later, the Drudge retweet disappeared from Trump’s personal profile page.

Some 40 minutes after his original reflex response, Trump sent out a second tweet, making a political point from the unfolding horror in London, arguing that it added weight to his efforts to get a travel ban imposed on travellers from six predominantly Muslim countries. Trump’s executive order has been blocked by a succession of courts and the matter is now before the supreme court.

Imams and members of the Muslim community arrive to lay flowers near the scene of the London Bridge terrorist attacks, on June 7, 2017 in London, England. The third attacker has been named following the attack on Saturday night in London Bridge and Borough in which eight people were killed and forty eight were injured. Incident on London Bridge

“We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” he said.

The tweet provoked a storm of criticism from commentators who saw it as a piece of opportunism at London’s expense.

Daniel Drezner, a politics professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, responded furiously, denouncing the president as “a cheap hustler occupying an office that you don’t understand”.

John Horgan, a psychologist and terrorist expert at Georgia State University responded to the tweet by calling Trump the “Opportunist-in-Chief”.

Adam Wagner, a British human rights barrister in said: “Message from London: political point scoring is the absolute, LAST thing we need right now.”

Eight minutes after his political point about the travel ban, Trump sent out a third, more supportive tweet, closer to a more normal response from a world leader when an ally comes under attack.

“Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the UK,” he wrote, πwe will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

Trump’s second and third tweets were retweeted by the @POTUS account.

The third tweet was echoed by Vice-President Mike Pence, who said: “Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims, courageous first responders & all the people of London. As President Trump said: WE ARE WITH YOU.”

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