Trump still can't strike the right note about 9/11

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

President Trump on Tuesday marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks by traveling to Shanksville, Pa., the site of the United Flight 93 crash. While en route, Trump issued a tweet remarking about how long it’s been since the terror attacks.

It was punctuated with an exclamation mark.

For some, the sentiment seemed at odds with the somber nature of the anniversary.

“A lot of presidents would use this day to honor the dead,” James Felton tweeted, “rather than prove they have the ability to count.”

Some commenters also took exception to Trump’s exuberant double-fist pumps to supporters upon his arrival in Pennsylvania.

Trump’s speech to the families of the victims was comparatively restrained and dignified.

“We are gathered together on these hallowed grounds to honor the memory of nearly 3,000 souls who were murdered on this day 17 years ago,” the president said. “A piece of America’s heart is buried on these grounds, but in its place has grown a new resolve to live our lives with the same grace and courage as the heroes of Flight 93.”

“This field is now a monument to American defiance,” he added.

President Trump gestures as he arrives in Shanksville, Pa., Tuesday for a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Earlier Tuesday, Trump announced the trip to Shanksville in a tweet that included an image showing White House staffers participating in a 9/11 service on the South Lawn.

“Departing Washington, D.C. to attend a Flight 93 September 11th Memorial Service in Shanksville, Pennsylvania with Melania,” the president tweeted, adding: “#NeverForget.”

The photo, however, was from 2017 — not Tuesday — with former White House staffers Omarosa Manigault Newman, Gary Cohn, Ty Cobb and Hope Hicks all visible.

The significance of the date didn’t stop Trump from attacking a coterie of familiar foes, including Hillary Clinton, former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and his own Justice Department.

Strzok’s attorney, Aitan Goelman, denied the insinuation, saying the text merely referred to efforts to stop leaks.

“Trump attacking the FBI on today of all days,” one Twitter user wrote.

Others noted that Trump did not mention first responders on Twitter, but instead gave a shout-out to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is now his lawyer.

The president, though, has something of a history of discordant remarks about the 9/11 attacks.

On the morning of the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, in 2013, Trump took to Twitter to “to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th.”

He deleted the original tweet before inexplicably retweeting the message later that evening.

Last year, while discussing his first 100 days in office, Trump invoked 9/11 while boasting about the “tremendous” television ratings for his appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” saying they were the highest “since the World Trade Center came down.”

As a candidate, Trump stirred outrage by saying he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center. There is no evidence that this actually happened.

“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down,” Trump said at a rally in Birmingham, Ala. “And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.”

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Trump doubled down.

“There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations,” Trump said. “They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down — and that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.”

President Trump gives a thumbs-up to photographers as he and first lady Melania Trump walk with park superintendent Stephen Clark at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pa., on Tuesday. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

While there were images of people in parts the Middle East cheering the attacks, there is no evidence that similar celebrations took place in New Jersey. City and state officials, including then Gov. Chris Christie, issued statements debunking Trump’s claim. The Washington Post “Fact-Checker” concluded it was “outrageous.”

“It did happen. I saw it,” Trump insisted. “It was on television.”

Trump also said he helped “clear the rubble” at Ground Zero.

“Everyone who helped clear the rubble — and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit,” Trump said at a rally in Buffalo in April 2016. “But I want to tell you: Those people were amazing. Clearing the rubble. Trying to find additional lives. You didn’t know what was going to come down on all of us — and they handled it.”

While Trump did visit the World Trade Center site a few days after the attacks, there is no evidence that he personally helped in the cleanup efforts.

On the day of the attacks, Trump called into a local New Jersey television station for an interview that was mostly somber.

“I have a window that looks directly at the World Trade Center, and I saw this huge explosion,” Trump said from his luxury apartment in Midtown Manhattan. “I really couldn’t even believe it. And even worse than that, for years I’ve looked right directly at the building. I could see the Empire State Building in the foreground and the World Trade Center in the background. And now, I’m looking at absolutely nothing. It’s just gone. It’s just hard to believe.”

But when asked whether a building he owned in lower Manhattan had sustained any damage in the attacks, the real estate mogul couldn’t help but note a change in skyline.

“40 Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan — and it was actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest — and then, when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second-tallest,” Trump said. “And now it’s the tallest.”


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