MIAMI – Donald Trump said in an interview Thursday that he would support trying U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism in military tribunals — a controversial proposal that would likely be challenged as unconstitutional.
The Republican presidential nominee told the Miami Herald that he doesn’t “at all” like the idea of trying terrorist suspects in the civilian court system, even though US citizens are constitutionally entitled to due process. He added that he would be “fine” with trying U.S. citizens in military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, the U.S. naval base that is also home to a military prison housing captured terror suspects.
Trump addressed the Guantánamo Bay detention center, climate change and the Zika virus in a wide-ranging interview with the Miami Herald.
“Well, I know that they want to try them in our regular court systems, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t like that at all,” he told the Herald. “I would say they could be tried (in military commissions), that would be fine.”
President George W. Bush authorized the trial of non-citizens who engage or support acts of terrorism after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but a U.S. citizen has never been tried in military courts under that order.
Most constitutional experts and several senior Republican senators — including Sen. John McCain — strongly opposed proposals to try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers and a naturalized U.S. citizen, in military court.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Trump was concerned about infringing U.S. citizens’ right to due process under the Constitution.
Trump has repeatedly called for toughening the U.S. approach to terrorism, and has suggested he would continue to capture and detain terror suspects at Guantánamo, though he would not commit to imprisoning terror suspects there as prison.
“I want to make sure that if we have radical Islamic terrorists, we have a very safe place to keep them,” Trump told the Herald.
Trump has also called for waterboarding terrorism suspects and “worse” forms of torture, calls that have alarmed civil liberties advocates, international lawyers and U.S. military officials.
While Trump again criticized President Barack Obama’s policies in combating terrorism, Obama has also drawn fire from civil liberties advocates for authorizing the drone killings of U.S. citizens engaged in terror activities against the U.S. without trial.
Trump also said for the first time in his interview with the Herald that he “absolutely” supports Congress allocating funds to fight the Zika virus.
Trump said he would let “some of the funds that they’re asking for come in.”