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On Typically Unifying 9/11, Trump Attacks His Domestic Foes

On somber anniversary, president dubs DOJ, FBI ’so terrible‘

President Donald Trump began the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by lashing out at his own political foes. (Getty Images)
President Donald Trump began the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by lashing out at his own political foes. (Getty Images)

Wreaths were laid and bells tolled Tuesday for the fallen in Manhattan, at the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania. Officials spoke, as did Vice President Mike Pence, about “honor and remembrance.” But President Donald Trump started off the 9/11 anniversary by lashing out at his political opponents.

“For the families of the fallen and all those looking on, the cherished final moments with your loved ones … seem like yesterday. Just know that your nation understands,” Pence said at the Pentagon, striking the tone George W. Bush and Barack Obama administration officials did on Sept. 11 anniversaries past.

“While we all suffered loss that day, we know you bear a special burden,” Pence said. “We stand with you. And we always will.”

Trump marked America’s 17-year journey following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at a somber ceremony in the Pennsylvania field where one of the hijacked airliners crashed. But he opened the solemn anniversary by attacking his political opponents.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump flew to the Shanksville memorial at the site where United Airlines Flight 93 was downed during what investigators concluded was a struggle between al-Qaida operatives and rebelling passengers. 

Trump, Pence Honor 9/11 Victims at Shanksville, Pentagon

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Trump told the Shanksville audience they were there to “honor the souls who were murdered here,” saying those on the plane who charged the hijackers “changed the course of history.”

“We commemorate their incredible valor,” he said, calling the retaliating passengers a “band of brave patriots who turned the tide … and joined the ranks of … immortal heroes.”

Sept. 11 brings yearly remembrances, including video of Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the evening of the attacks singing “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps. Current and former lawmakers and officials talk fondly of how the country — and both parties in Washington — were unified, even if briefly.

But the 45th commander in chief struck a different note Tuesday before heading to Pennsylvania.

Before boarding his motorcade — Marine One could not fly due to fog in the Washington area — to Joint Base Andrews for the trek to the Flight 93 Memorial, Trump was clearly focused on the Justice Department investigation of Russia’s 2016 election meddling, possible coordination between Russians and the Trump campaign, and whether the president obstructed that probe since taking office.

He started by appearing to share a quote from Sara Carter, a self-described “national and international award winning investigative reporter” and Fox News commentator, on Lou Dobbs’ program on that network the previous night.

“We have found nothing to show collusion between President Trump & Russia, absolutely zero, but every day we get more documentation showing collusion between the FBI & DOJ, the Hillary campaign, foreign spies & Russians, incredible,” Trump wrote, quoting Carter.

Minutes later, the president criticized anew former FBI agent Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, an agent who traded texts with Strzok about Trump during the 2016 campaign while they were romantically linked. Trump appeared to be responding to more Fox programming, using the @FoxNews tag in the tweet that alleged the duo discussed a “Media Leak Strategy” about Trump.

The president dubbed the Fox report “So terrible” before again turning his anger and criticism toward Justice Department and FBI officials, writing “NOTHING is being done at DOJ or FBI — but the world is watching, and they get it completely.”

Multiple public polls show majorities of Americans support the Justice Department’s special counsel Russia probe being led by former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

But the president was not finished, tweeting that DOJ “would be behaving no differently than it is” if Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder was still in charge rather than the Trump-appointed Jeff Sessions.

Trump, who longtime journalist Bob Woodward calls detached from reality in reporting for a new book, shared another tweet about the attacks’ anniversary that seemed to lack reverence. Most 9/11 remembrances don’t feature exclamation points.

He also fired off a tribute to Rudolph Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City on 9/11 and received high marks from Republicans and Democrats for his response to the attack. But the text comes in the context of Giuliani now being Trump’s personal attorney working on the Mueller probe. Since taking that role, Giuliani also has been sharply critical of the FBI and Justice Department, as well as the president’s Democratic critics.

“Rudy is a TRUE WARRIOR!” Trump wrote.

It was not clear, even on the 9/11 anniversary, whether Trump was referring to Giuliani’s work after the terrorist attack or on behalf of his new client.

Watch: Trump’s 3 Legislative Priorities Before the Midterm Vote

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