Donald Trump has unleashed a series of angry tweets attacking The New York Times over a report claiming he was thinking about sending undocumented immigrants into so-called “sanctuary cities” represented by Democrats.
The president accused the newspaper of failing to “call to check for truth”, only for White House correspondent Maggie Haberman to explain the Times had in fact emailed his press team “three times for comment and [the] press office acknowledged receipt of emails”.
The newspaper claimed the idea of releasing immigrants detained by federal agencies into cities which had previously offered protection from deportation had been considered by the White House.
Although Mr Trump said the story was “knowingly wrong on almost every fact”, he appeared to confirm and validate its truth with his own tweets.
He wrote: “Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only.”
The president insisted the newspaper was guilty of “really corrupt reporting”, stating: “They will lie & cheat anyway possible to make me look bad. In 6 years they will be gone.”
His other late night-tweets on Saturday suggested Mr Trump has refused to give up on the idea of sending migrants to sanctuary cities. He claimed the nation had the “absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred”.
The president attacked the Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf after she criticised the idea as “an outrageous abuse of power”.
POTUS really ought to check in with his press team more often, or they with him. NYT emailed three times for comment and press office acknowledged receipt of emails. https://t.co/Jk3XOoOQgJ— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT)April 13, 2019
Mr Trump tweeted: “So interesting to see the Mayor of Oakland and other Sanctuary Cities NOT WANT our currently “detained immigrants” after release due to the ridiculous court ordered 20 day rule.”
He added: “Just out: The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities.”
Ms Schaaf later responded by telling the president to “stop fanning hate and division”.
Just out: The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities. We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known or its poor management & high taxes!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)April 14, 2019
Despite Mr Trump’s threatening tweets on the subject, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said the idea of sending released immigrants to particular US cities had been raised and dismissed.
“This was a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion,” said a DHS spokesman.
The plan discussed by Mr Trump would face major financial and legal issues. Flights chartered by ICE cost about $7,785 (around £6,000) per flight hour, according to the agency, and require multiple members of staff, including an in-flight medical professional.
It is also unclear how long the immigrants would stay in these cities because they are required to provide an address to federal authorities – typically of a family member – as a condition of their release.
“It’s illogical,” said Angela Chan, policy director and senior attorney with the San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus. “It’s just alarming that they are spending so much effort and so much time to engage in political theatre.”
Additional reporting by AP