White House defends Trump's taunting of Sadiq Khan after London Bridge attack

The White House claims Mr Trump is not 'picking a fight' with the London mayor

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The Independent US

The White House has defended President Donald Trump’s controversial string of tweets following the recent terrorist attack in London.

The president issued several early-morning missives about the attack, in which he lashed out at London Mayor Sadiq Khan and referred to his own proposed travel restrictions as a “travel ban”. Many accused Mr Trump of politicising the tragedy and using it to further his own aims.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, however, defended the president’s tweets, saying they allow him to “speak directly to the people without the bias of the media filtering those communications.”

Hours before, Mr Trump had used the social media platform to criticise Mr Khan’s calls for calm.

“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” Mr Trump tweeted. The mayor had been referring to the increased police presence in the city.

Later, Mr Trump tweeted about Mr Khan’s “pathetic excuse” for his statement, claiming the mainstream media was “working hard to sell it”.

Ms Sanders echoed these statements, saying the president was not “picking a fight” with Mr Khan, but that “the media wants to spin it that way”.

She also denied the accusation that the president had singled out Mr Khan because of his Muslim faith.  

In the same press conference, however, Ms Sanders defended Mr Trump’s proposed restrictions on entry for residents of six Muslim-majority countries. She adopted Mr Trump's own language from that morning, in which he referred to the restrictions as a "travel ban". 

"One of the reasons we have the travel ban here, through this executive order, is a focus on national security," she said. 

Much of the debate about Mr Trump's restrictions – which have been blocked by multiple federal judges – centres on whether they amount to a "Muslim ban". A ban on any religion by the US government would be unconstitutional. 

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has previously insisted that the executive order is "not a Muslim ban" and "not a travel ban".

But Ms Sanders co-opted the president's own language on Monday, referring to the order as a travel ban and denying the term was problematic.

“The president isn’t concerned with what you call it, he’s concerned with national security and protecting people in this country,” Ms Sanders said.

Mr Trump has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider the various restraining orders on his ban.