President Donald Trump unleashed a Twitter barrage Wednesday blaming the Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery program for the deadly attack that struck lower Manhattan one day earlier, and demanding immigration reforms based on merit.
He said suspect, 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, used the program to legally emigrate from Uzbekistan in 2010. Officials have yet to confirm whether that's the case.
Established in 1990, the lottery provides legal pathways for people from countries with historically low immigration rates to the U.S. Only 50,000 visas are offered annually, and applicants are required to have completed at least a high school education or at least two years of work experience. Visas are distributed among nationals from six different regions.
Instead of a lottery, which is arbitrary in nature, Trump repeatedly called for merit-based systems instead.
Trump called the program a "Chuck Schumer beauty," piggybacking off of other right-wing attacks on the Democratic senator from New York, who was one of the people to introduce the bill. He also sponsored the larger immigration bill that ultimately passed.
Schumer shot back Wednesday, saying in a statement that Trump "should be focusing on the real solution ― anti-terrorism funding ― which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget."
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) came to Schumer's defense, adding that a bipartisan group of eight senators, including Schumer himself, unveiled legislation in 2013 that would have done away with the program.
Trump likely tagged "Fox & Friends" in his second tweet because Sebastian Gorka, a former assistant to the president, made an appearance on the show Wednesday morning to discuss the visa program and advocate for its revision.
"The idea that we're just going to ― if you got a high school diploma and two years of work experience, we can roll the dice and can you come into America and it's not based upon whether or not you are strength the nation ― that has to end," Gorka said.
He references countries like Australia and New Zealand which, he claimed have "incredibly stringent immigration requirements" based upon education."
"No more political correctness," he continued. "Political correctness can kill people."
Tuesday afternoon, in the hours after the attack, Trump tweeted that it "looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person." He then appeared to suggest the event may be linked to the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State, which has not yet been found to have any connection to the attack.
At least eight people were killed and 11 were injured after a man drove a Home Depot rental truck down a bike path on the West Side Highway, striking several people. The driver also rammed the truck into a school bus. Saipov, who was injured in the attack, was later taken into police custody.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the incident an "act of terror."
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.