President Donald Trump used an explosion on the London Underground as an excuse to promote his travel ban, and said that authorities should “cut off” the internet to prevent terrorist recruitment.
At least twenty-two people were injured on Friday morning when an “improvised device” detonated on a train near Parsons Green Underground Station, south-west London. According to the emergency services most victims were said to be suffering from flash burns. In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said they had declared the attempted bombing a terrorist incident and were working to determine who was responsible.
“There are many urgent inquiries ongoing with hundreds of detectives involved, looking at CCTV, carrying out forensic work and speaking to witnesses,” Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said. “Today and over the weekend the public can expect to see a heightened police presence, particularly in crowded places and at transport hubs.”
But despite the fast-moving nature of the investigation, President Trump was quick to take to Twitter on Friday morning, assigning blame and saying that “loser terrorists” needed to be dealt with in a much tougher manner — specifically through his travel ban, which is due to expire in 12 days.
At the time that the President tweeted, the Metropolitan Police had yet to identify a group or individual in connection with the blast.
The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2017
“Another attack in London by a loser terrorists. These sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive,” Trump said. “Loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner. The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off and use better!”
Trump continued his Twitter rant, saying that “[t]he travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific – but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” Twenty minutes later he pivoted to tweeting about how a record number of viewers were dumping ESPN.
British officials were quick to criticize the president’s comments. The prime minister, Theresa May, said that it was “never helpful” for anyone to speculate on ongoing investigations. Nick Timothy, May’s former chief of staff, took a much stronger stance, tweeting that Trump’s actions were “so unhelpful from [the] leader of our ally and intelligence partner.”
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) September 15, 2017
True or not – and I’m sure he doesn’t know – this is so unhelpful from leader of our ally and intelligence partner. https://t.co/ZndrTXFrAX
— Nick Timothy (@NickJTimothy) September 15, 2017
Officials on the ground in London were even harsher. A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told CNN that Trump’s comments were “pure speculation given we don’t know who was involved. Any speculation is unhelpful.” Neil Coyle, a Labour Member of Parliament responsible for London Bridge, where eleven people were killed in a terrorist attack in June, told the Daily Mirror that Trump’s response was “idiotic.”
“Instead of slagging off a major ally’s police and security service network, Trump should perhaps focus on his own backyard,” he said. “He was reluctant to criticize Nazi-flag waving extremists at home.”
“Scotland Yard makes an arrest every four days using counter-terrorism intelligence,” he added. “The police need more resources but definitely don’t need Trump’s idiotic excuse for extending his travel ban.”
Trump has repeatedly rushed to judgement whenever news breaks of a violent attack that could be linked to Muslim. When a gunman opened fire at a casino in Manila in June, Trump immediately said it was a terrorist attack without any evidence. “It’s really very sad as to what’s going on throughout the world with terror,” he said. “Our thoughts and our prayers are with all of those affected.” Authorities later said the attack was actually a botched robbery by a 42-year-old gambling addict.
After the Barcelona attacks in August, Trump suggested emulating General John Joseph Pershing who, according to an internet rumor, used bullets dipped in pig’s blood to put a stop to “Radical Islamic Terror” during the Spanish-American War of 1899-1902. In the wake of the London Bridge attack in June, Trump smeared London mayor Sadiq Khan for saying that there was “no reasons to be alarmed.” He failed to add that Khan was referring to the extra armed police presence in London in wake of the attack, which is unusual for a city where the majority of police are unarmed.
But after the attack at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Trump struck a very different tone. Despite there being video of neo-Nazi sympathizer James Alex Fields ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, Trump blamed “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He added that he waited three days to make a statement because he wanted to “see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters.”
The Parson’s Green bombing was fifth attack Britain has experienced since March. During that time British authorities have repeatedly criticized the US for interference in the investigation. After the Ariana Grande concert bombing, Greater Manchester Police stopped sharing evidence with their American counterparts because of leaks to the New York Times.