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Trump Insists to 9/11 First Responders: “I Spent a Lot of Time” at Ground Zero

While presiding over a bill signing ceremony for the 9/11 victims’ compensation fund in the White House Rose Garden on Monday morning, President Trump once again claimed he spent a substantial amount of time at ground zero following the terrorist attacks in 2001.

“I was down there also,” Trump said. “But I’m not considering myself a first responder. But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you.”

Trump didn’t specify exactly when he was “down there,” but on September 11, 2001 the then-real estate mogul did call in to a local news broadcast on WWOR in New Jersey to erroneously gloat that in the wake of the World Trade Center collapsing he owned the tallest building in Manhattan: 40 Wall Street.

Trump did actually visit ground zero on September 13, 2001, and granted interviews to NBC News and a German news show.

“I have hundreds of men inside working right now and we’re bringing down another 125 in a little while. And they’ve never done work like this before,” Trump told NBC News on September 13, 2001. “And they’re hard-working people but they’ve never seen anything like it. And they’ve never done work like this before, it’s terrible.”

According to fact-checking site Snopes, Trump’s claims were never actually verified. From Snopes:

Richard Alles, a retired deputy chief with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), who now serves as director of 9/11 community affairs for the law firm Barasch McGarry Salzman and Penson, told us that in all the hours, days and months he spent at Ground Zero as an FDNY battalion chief starting 20 minutes after the buildings collapsed, he never witnessed a large group of workers hired by Trump at the site helping with search and rescue. “This is the first I’m hearing of it,” Alles told us by phone. “There would have been no need for that. Between police, fire and the construction crews, we had it all covered.”

Of course, the fact that no one in a position of authority seems to remember Trump sending in battalions of workers to help with the post-9/11 recovery effort didn’t stop Trump from personally enriching himself from the tragedy. In 2016, the New York Daily News reported that Trump was awarded $150,000 from a recovery fund earmarked for restoring uninsured losses for small businesses, after claiming, falsely, that he was awarded the money as a reimbursement for his cleanup efforts after the attack. According to documents obtained by the Daily News, Trump filed a claim for “rent loss,” “cleanup,” and “repair” to his own properties and not for reimbursement for helping clear rubble from the WTC wreckage.

Trump also bragged about his supposed 9/11 cleanup efforts at a campaign rally in Buffalo, New York in 2016.

“Everyone who helped clear the rubble — and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit — but I want to tell you: Those people were amazing,” Trump said. “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.”

Later in today’s Rose Garden remarks, the president joked about the stage collapsing once all the 9/11 first responders and their families stepped onto the platform for a photo op.

Just another extremely normal morning at the White House.