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Story highlights

Trump made the comments during a White House Cabinet meeting

Tuesday's terror attack in New York was the city's deadliest since 9/11

Washington CNN —  

President Donald Trump called for “quick” and “strong” justice for terror suspects in the wake of the deadly New York City attack, saying that it is not surprising terror attacks happen because the way the United States punishes terrorists is “a laughingstock.”

Tuesday’s terror attack in New York was the city’s deadliest since 9/11. Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov drove a rented van down a bike path, law enforcement sources have said. The attack killed six victims instantly, while two others died later. New York politicians and officials quickly labeled the incident a terror attack.

Trump’s comments, made during a White House Cabinet meeting Wednesday, malign the justice system for a lack of toughness. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the head of the so-called ‘laughing stock’ justice system, was in the room for this comment – sitting across from Trump.

The President also said he would consider sending the attacker to the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay.

“We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now,” Trump told reporters. “They’ll go through court for years. And at the end, they’ll be – who knows what happens.”

He added: “We need quick justice and we need strong justice – much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, defending the President, claimed during her Wednesday briefing with reporters that Trump said “the process has people calling us a joke and calling us a laughingstock” – which is not what Trump said.

Sanders also added that Trump was “voicing his frustration with the lengthy process that often comes with a case like this.”

“That was simply the point he was making,” Sanders said.

Trump’s call to get tougher on terrorism fall in line with the same rhetoric he used during the campaign trail, where he called the Geneva Convention – a 1949 agreement that dictates international rules on torture and humanitarian treatment of prisoners – a problem that the United States had to move past.

“Torture works,” he said bluntly.

Trump also pledged to “load up” the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the campaign, slamming Democrats and then-President Barack Obama for sustained efforts to cut the number of detainees from the controversial prison.

“This morning, I watched President Obama talking about Gitmo, right, Guantanamo Bay, which by the way, which by the way, we are keeping open. Which we are keeping open … and we’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up,” Trump an audience in February 2016.

Legal scholars are divided on whether Trump could actually send people to Guantanamo, with most acknowledging that such an action would set up an unprecedented constitutional showdown.

Daphne Eviatar, the Human Rights Director with Amnesty International, slammed Trump’s suggestion that he would consider sending Saipov to Guantanamo, stating that he was a “a criminal suspect and should be treated as such by the US justice system.”

Trump also derided political correctness in his Wednesday remarks, complaining that the country is “so politically correct that we’re afraid to do anything.”

The call for swift action that breaks through political correctness contradicts the White House talking point after the mass shooting in Las Vegas a month ago, when multiple White House aides avoided talking about gun control, saying it was too close to the tragedy to talk about policy.

“Again, we haven’t had the moment to have a deep dive on the policy part of that,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the day after the shooting. “We’ve been focused on the fact that we had a severe tragedy in our country. And this is a day of mourning, a time of bringing our country together, and that’s been the focus of the administration this morning.”