- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2019

President Trump voiced concerns Wednesday about the cost of operating the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, or Gitmo, blaming his predecessor for not closing the facility as pledged.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Mr. Trump complained about the high cost of running Gitmo, where the U.S. has jailed foreign terrorism suspects since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, saying his administration became “stuck with it” because former President Barack Obama failed to fulfill his campaign promise of shuttering the prison.

Mr. Trump stopped short of saying he would also try to close Gitmo, however, which the last president fell short of accomplishing in the face of opposition from congressional Republicans.

“We’re looking at a lot of things,” Mr. Trump said without elaborating, according to a copy of his remarks released by the White House. “But President Obama said that Guantanamo Bay would be closed, and he never got it done.”

“I think it’s crazy,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “It’s been — it costs a fortune to operate it, and I think it’s crazy.”



Mr. Trump made the remarks in response to being asked about a recent New York Times report that said the U.S. government spent more than $540 million last year running Gitmo, or around $13 million per prisoner.

Located on a U.S. military base in Cuba, Gitmo has held a total of 780 detainees since being established nearly 18 years ago under the administration of former President George W. Bush. It became infamous in the interim for being used by the government to arbitrarily and indefinitely detainee foreign-born prisoners, and Democrats including Mr. Obama have unsuccessfully tried for years to have it closed.

Mr. Obama had campaigned on shuttering the detention camp, but multiple attempts to follow through as president were blocked by Republicans on Capitol Hill. Instead, he nearly emptied it before his administration ended, releasing all but 40 detainees prior to leaving office in early 2017.

“Members of Congress who obstruct efforts to close the facility, given the stakes involved for our security, have abdicated their responsibility to the American people,” Mr. Obama wrote in a terse letter sent to congressional leaders during his last day in the White House. “They have placed politics above the ongoing costs to taxpayers, our relationships with our allies and the threat posed to U.S. national security by leaving open a facility that governments around the world condemn and which hinders rather than helps our fight against terrorism.”

Mr. Trump took an opposite stance from Mr. Obama when he campaigned to succeed him in 2016, vowing at the time to “keep it open” and “load it up with some bad news.” The real estate mogul raised concerns about the cost on the campaign trail, however, saying at the time that he would like to make running the prison more affordable.

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