TOPEKA — Fresh from a trip to the controversial Cuba prison, U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins said her support of Guantanamo Bay remains unwavering, and she credited the tour with giving Leavenworth officials material for future legal action.
Jenkins, a Republican, toured the prison Friday for the second time during her four-term tenure in Congress.
She was joined by three Republican members of the Kansas Legislature: Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, Rep. Tony Barton and Rep. Willie Dove. Also in attendance were Leavenworth Mayor Larry Dedeke, Leavenworth County Commissioner Mark Preisinger and Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson, according to Jenkins, who represents Leavenworth.
By observing the facilities at Guantanamo, Jenkins said, local officials gained information that could be used in legal action against the federal government if there is an attempt by President Barack Obama or a future president to close the prison and transfer its inmates to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.
“I was the one who had to take them,” Jenkins told reporters during a conference call Tuesday when asked why she attended. “They couldn’t go without me.”
Leavenworth city and county officials have argued for years that such a transfer would invite a terrorist attack on the city and overstretch its infrastructure. For example, there isn’t a medical facility on Fort Leavenworth that could treat detainees, they say.
“This is not a partisan issue. We have broad bipartisan opposition to the president,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins claimed opposition from the Kansas congressional delegation is what has blocked Obama from closing the prison. Though the matter now appears moot, Jenkins said the all-Republican Kansas delegation has no plans to let up.
Congress has repeatedly rejected attempts to close the detention facility considered by critics to be an archaic relic of the War on Terror and a rallying cry for terrorists. Jenkins said she was told by military officials during a briefing Friday that terrorists no longer cite Guantanamo as a motive for their attacks.
“The care (detainees) get is the same care we would give any military criminal,” Jenkins said, adding that Guantanamo detainees “wake up every morning determined to kill Americans.”
The congresswoman last toured Guantanamo in 2009. When asked about differences between the two trips, she said detainees were “on their best behavior” this time around. The tour coincided with the holy month of Ramadan.
“We have fed them too well,” Jenkins said. “Many have become obese and developed diabetes.”
A recent mass shooting in Orlando, in which the perpetrator stated support for the Islamic State group, further shows “the ever-increasing reason not to let these detainees be transferred back into the fight,” Jenkins said.
During the conference call with reporters, Jenkins also was asked whether she would support Republican presidential candidate and presumptive nominee Donald Trump or attend the Republican National Convention next month.
Jenkins said she has never attended a convention and won’t do so this year. She didn’t directly answer the question about Trump, saying only that she is opposed to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and has some disagreements with Trump.
“I don’t agree with everything Donald Trump says. Clearly, we have some differences,” she said.