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Officials Aren't Sure What Caused the EgyptAir Crash, but Trump Already Says It's Terrorism

The Republican frontrunner wasted no time in weighing in on the situation, despite officials saying repeatedly they do not know what happened yet.
May 19, 2016, 3:20pm
Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA

Hours after an EgyptAir jet crashed carrying 66 people, Donald Trump blamed the incident on terrorism, as French and Egyptian officials warned against speculation and said they had no information yet to suggest a cause.

"Looks like yet another terrorist attack," Trump tweeted at 6:27am Thursday. "Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!"

Trump's claim that the crash was related to an act of terror appears to be premature speculation. French and Egyptian authorities warned against doing just that, saying repeatedly that it was far too early to know what happened.

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In a press conference Thursday, French president Francois Hollande confirmed that the plane crashed, but declined to offer any possible explanations for the cause, saying that "no hypothesis can be ruled out, nor can any be favored over another."

Related: The Missing EgyptAir Flight Has Crashed, and Debris Has Been Found

Egypt's minister of civil aviation, Sherif Fathy, also refused to entertain any theories that the cause was related to terrorism or otherwise.

"We have no other information other than we know there is a missing plane and there are various reasons for this situation," Fathy said in a press conference. "What's certain is that something has happened." He said it would be "insensitive to people's feelings" to speculate further.

When pressed further, however, Fathy acknowledged that "the possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical [problem]."

Trump sent his tweet two hours before authorities in either country had commented on the situation.

The EgyptAir flight was traveling from Paris to Cairo and carrying 66 people on board, including one child and two infants, before it fell off of radar over the Mediterranean sea. The airline confirmed on Twitter that they lost radar contact with the plane at about 2:30am local time on Thursday, as it neared the Egyptian coastline.

Trump's rush to blame the cause of the crash on "yet another act of terrorism," is the kind of behavior that worries some intelligence officials about giving him state secrets. Trump, and very likely Hillary Clinton, will each receive a classified intelligence briefing after they officially secure their party's nominations in July.

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"This is a person who doesn't seem to have much of a filter," Aki Peritz, a former CIA analyst who has provided intelligence briefs for the president, told the Washington Post earlier this month. "The scary part is that nobody knows who he really is. Is he this blowhard demagogue we see on TV or is he really a sophisticated consumer of information that will keep this information close to his chest?"

It's anyone's guess how those briefings will go, considering that Trump has never been exposed to classified information related to sensitive national security matters. Several former intelligence officials have raised questions about how Trump will use that information in his campaign.

"My concern with Trump will be that he inadvertently leaks, because as he speaks extemporaneously, he'll pull something out of his hat that he heard in a briefing and say it," an unnamed senior intelligence official who has briefed past presidential candidates, told the Daily Beast.

This is not the first time that Trump has quickly blamed something on terrorism before having the facts.

After the San Bernardino mass shooting last December, Trump speculated that the gunmen were motivated by terrorism, long before officials confirmed the cause. "Take a look. I mean, you look at the names, you look at what's happened. You tell me," he said.

A spokesperson for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to VICE News' request for comment.

UPDATE [2:40 pm] — Thursday afternoon, Hillary Clinton said in an interview on CNN that "it does appear that [the EgyptAir crash was an act of terrorism," adding, "Exactly how, of course, the investigation will have to determine." Clinton's comments come after Egyptian civil aviation minister Sherif Fathi said terrorism looked more likely than other causes, while cautioning against speculation.

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