Hours after a terrorist incident in the London Underground on Friday, President Donald Trump went on a Twitter rant, saying the attack was carried out by a "loser" and that those responsible for the assault were on the radar of Scotland Yard.
It was unclear where Trump had come by this information. UK officials have not said publicly who was behind Friday's attack.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told BuzzFeed News that Trump’s tweets were “pure speculation” and characterized them as “unhelpful”.
“Anyone with information relating to the investigation should contact the counter-terrorism hotline,” the spokesperson added.
Responding to whether he had been briefed about the terror attack, Trump later told reporters in the Rose Garden, "Yes, I have been briefed on numerous things happening including North Korea."
He said the terror incident in London was a "terrible thing" and it "just keeps going and going."
"We have to be very smart and we have to be very, very tough, which perhaps we're not nearly tough enough. But that is just an absolutely terrible thing," Trump said, adding that he was about to call UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
May appeared to criticize Trump's tweets about the terror attack, saying, "I never think it's helpful for anyone to speculate on what is an ongoing situation."
She said that police and security services were "working to understand the full circumstances of this cowardly attack and to identify all those responsible."
At a White House press briefing on Friday, National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster, struggled to explain whether Trump's tweets were speculation or based on confidential intelligence briefings.
McMaster said that Trump was "generally" referring to law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Scotland Yard monitoring terrorist activity for years.
"I think what the president was communicating is that obviously all of our law enforcement efforts are focused on this terrorist threat for years," McMaster said.
"Scotland Yard has been a leader as our FBI has been a leader. So I think, if there was a terrorist attack here, god forbid, that we would say that they were in the sights of the FBI. I think he didn't mean anything beyond that," he said.
He further tried to clarify Trump's intention, saying, "I think he means generally that this kind of activity is what we are tying to prevent."
He continued: "So these organizations that were responsible for this and whatever comes out of the investigation that remains to be seen, it is likely that law enforcement had been working on that problem.
Trump also seized upon the incident to renew his push for a travel ban for people from predominantly Muslim countries. He had tweeted similar messages in June following the terrorist attack on London Bridge.
The explosion at the Parsons Green tube station in west London during the morning rush hour Friday has been declared a terrorist incident and police confirmed that an "improvised explosive device" was used in the attack, which left 22 injured.
The Metropolitan Police tweeted that they have not yet identified the attacker but an investigation is underway.
The president's comments come just months after intelligence sharing between the US and UK was strained when information was leaked by US officials in the aftermath of the Manchester attack.
Just hours after the Manchester attack, US news outlets were citing US officials claiming to identify the suspect before the Manchester police had released the information. The New York Times also published crime scene photos from the terror attack.
At the time May said, "I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure." Following the leaks, Trump announced that the US Justice Department was launching a "complete review" on the leaks.
Shashank Joshi, senior fellow at the UK security think tank RUSI, said he was "not sure what to make of Trump's tweet."
"If he is basing this on liaison-supplied information, then it would certainly aggravate the tensions on display in the Manchester episode," Joshi said. "But it seems to me equally possible that he is speculating, and is referring to Scotland Yard’s general concern about radicalized individuals rather than the specific attacker in question."
A former chief of staff to May said that Trump's tweet was "unhelpful" and that he was "sure he doesn't know" whether or not those responsible were known to Scotland Yard.
Following his initial tweet, Trump went on to say, "Loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner. The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better!"
Just as he did during the London Bridge attack in June, he also used the incident to call for support of a travel ban. Labour MP Neil Coyle responded by saying that the police "don't need Trump's idiotic excuse for extending his travel ban," according to the Mirror.
He also pointed out that "Scotland Yard makes an arrest every four days using counter-terrorism intelligence."
Trump went on to tout progress made in the fight against ISIS since he's taken office and urged that we "must be proactive & nasty!"
Jessica Simeone is a news assignment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Jessica Simeone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Ball is a special correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London. PGP: here
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