White House: Trump not 'picking a fight' with London mayor

The president twice tweeted about Sadiq Khan after Saturday's terrorist attack

ByABC News
June 5, 2017, 3:21 PM

— -- The White House on Monday defended President Donald Trump's tweets targeting London Mayor Sadiq Khan, saying that he was not trying to cause trouble with Khan.

"I don't see that the president is picking a fight with the mayor of London at all," deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Sanders said at Monday's press briefing. "I think, again, the president's point is something he said frankly back almost two years now -- a year and a half ago -- when the president talked about how we have to be more committed to national security. One of the reasons we have the travel ban here through that executive order is a focus on national security. That was the point he was trying to make."

Trump had first criticized Khan Sunday, tweeting, "At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is 'no reason to be alarmed!"

And on Monday, Trump added: "Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his 'no reason to be alarmed' statement."

A spokesperson for Khan Sunday called Trump's remark "ill-informed" and said it took the mayor's words out of context.

"Just like terrorists are constantly evolving and finding new ways to disrupt us, harm us, attack us, the police and experts and all of us are finding new ways to keep us safe," Khan said in a Sunday statement. "Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. No reason to be alarmed."

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told NBC Monday that Trump's tweet Sunday was not a political attack. Conway would not say whether the president should apologize to Khan and, instead, argued that there’s an “obsession with covering everything Trump says on Twitter and very little of what he does as president.”

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president, also stressed Monday that Trump's tweets were not administration policy.

"It's not policy, it's not an executive order. It's social media," Gorka told CNN.

After Trump's tweet Sunday, the acting U.S. ambassador to the U.K., Lewis Lukens, issued a statement commending Khan for his response to the attacks.

The president and the mayor's feud goes back to the presidential campaign and when Khan was first elected in May 2016. Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, criticized Trump's views on Islam and for his immigration ban. Trump hit back, calling the mayor's comments "nasty" and challenged Khan to an IQ test.

President Trump this morning also blasted out a series of tweets reinforcing his calls for the "travel ban" in the wake of the London attack. Trump posted that the U.S. Department of Justice should have pushed his "original" travel ban, or sought a tougher version of the executive order intended to temporarily bar citizens of six predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States, and not the "watered down, politically correct version" now in front of the Supreme Court.

Trump's tweets this morning are an attack on his Justice Department and that executive order, which he signed.

Trump's tweets this morning are an attack on his Justice Department and that executive order, which he signed.

The Trump administration Thursday appealed to the Supreme Court to review and reinstate the travel ban, hoping the court will overturn lower-court rulings that have stalled the executive order from being implemented.

Referring to the executive order as a "travel ban," Trump also refuted what his administration officials and spokespeople have said in the past about the executive order.

"People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!," Trump said this morning.

In a Jan. 31 press briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the president's executive order is "not a travel ban."

"I think the president has talked about extreme vetting and the need to keep America safe for a very, very long time. At the same time, he's also made very clear that this is not a Muslim ban. It's not a travel ban. It's a vetting system to keep America safe -- that's it, plain and simple," Spicer said then.

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