UPDATE: The White House has ordered the Department of Justice to find alternative sites for the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, the Daily News is reporting. The move came after a call from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Attorney General Eric Holder.
Bloomberg, who initially supported a Lower Manhattan trial, was influenced by a behind-the-scenes campaign to change the venue led by New York police commissioner Ray Kelly and area business leaders.
“What turned this around was when Ray made a presentation to the Police Foundation,” the source said. “Everyone went from thinking, ‘Justice will be served’ to thinking ‘We are screwed.’”
The order reportedly does not change the administration’s position that Mohammed should be tried in federal criminal court. But it has caught the Justice Department off-guard:
“They’re in a tizzy at Justice over Bloomberg,” a federal law enforcement official said. “It’s like a half-baked souffle — the plan is collapsing.”
UPDATE II: Fox News’s Major Garrett says officials confirm the White House and Department of Justice are in senior-level talks considering alternative sites. The talks, Garrett says, foreshadow a stand-down.
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Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) have added their names to a growing list of Democrats and independents opposing the trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City.
“In my view, from an intelligence perspective, I think the situation has changed with the Christmas attack,” Feinstein told MSNBC, citing confidential intelligence briefings to which she was privy as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Referring to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent change of heart on the Justice Department’s decision to hold the trial in a Lower Manhattan federal court, Feinstein said “I think the administration should listen to the mayor, listen to the mayor’s concern, and, candidly, make a change.”
“There are other places to try it in the U.S. that are much more remote, much less a target, and much less a squatting ground for propaganda around the world,” Feinstein said.
In addition to Bloomberg, a number of other New York Democratic lawmakers have signaled their preference for a change of venue.
“I share the concerns from the Mayor and the businesses community, and I am open to alternative locations,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) in a statement.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D, N.Y.), who represents parts of Lower Manhattan, said the trial would create a “fortress-like perimeter” around the area.
“I believe the choice for a trial location has been made in an extremely shortsighted manner and I would respectfully request that you explore the possibilities of moving the trial to an alternate site,” she added.
New York’s Democratic governor, David Paterson, called for “suitable alternatives that would fall within the court’s jurisdiction but for the public at large would be a better place to hold the actual trial.”