On 9/11, Trump plays consoler-in-chief by mixing attacks on Twitter with somber remembrances

Courtney Subramanian and John Fritze, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump marked the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on Wednesday by expressing his sympathy in a speech at the Pentagon, but not before lashing out at a new Washington Post–ABC News poll, Fed Chair Jerome Powell and his favorite target - the media. 

Trump has embraced a more somber approach at past 9/11 ceremonies but has just as often continued to hammer enemies, Democrats and the media on Twitter. The president has long batted away criticism of political tweets at moments when his predecessors would have more likely laid low on social media.

Trump began his morning by posting a solemn image marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001. 

Ten minutes later, he turned his attention to Fed Chair Jerome Powell, declaring the Federal Reserve should use negative interest rates.  

Moments before getting into a limousine to attend the wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon, the president fired off a series of attacks on an unfavorable poll, which revealed Joe Biden with 15 percentage points over Trump among registered voters.

"In a hypothetical poll, done by one of the worst pollsters of them all, the Amazon Washington Post/ABC, which predicted I would lose to Crooked Hillary by 15 points (how did that work out?), Sleepy Joe, Pocahontas and virtually all others would beat me in the General Election," Trump wrote in a tweet. "This is a phony suppression poll, meant to build up their Democrat partners.

"I haven’t even started campaigning yet, and am constantly fighting Fake News like Russia, Russia, Russia," he continued. "Look at North Carolina last night. Dan Bishop, down big in the Polls, WINS. Easier than 2016!"

Minutes later, Trump traded his combative tone for a more presidential one, calling it his "great honor" to deliver the 9/11 remarks. 

This year's morning outburst is hardly a departure from Trump's attitude on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, refusing to set aside his personal gripes for national grief.

"They attacked the enemy," Trump recalled last year as he stood on the Pennsylvania field where United Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. "They fought until the very end. And they stopped the forces of terror and defeated this wicked, horrible, evil plan."

But while Trump was focused on 9/11 in the moment, he used his Twitter account throughout the day to attack Rep. Maxine Walters, D-Calif., former FBI Director James Comey and the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Crazy Maxine Waters,” Trump began one tweet on Sept. 11, 2018. “Where are the Democrats coming from? The best Economy in the history of our country would totally collapse if they ever took control!”

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump participate in a moment of silence honoring the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, at the Pentagon.

During the first year of his presidency, Trump largely avoided politics throughout the day. Speaking at the Pentagon, the president said that “our eyes were opened to the depths of the evil we face." He posted only two messages on Twitter, both related to the attacks.

In 2015, Trump criticized "lightweight" former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindaal two hours before he sent a tweet to "remember the heroes from a very tragic day that we cannot let happen again!" The year before, he retweeted a string of tweets from admiring fans suggesting he should be president. 

But for some Trump critics, including Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director who has publicly rebuked the president in recent weeks, Trump's impassioned attacks are still a step too far. 

One of Trump’s GOP primary challengers, former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, slammed Trump for his off-topic tweets Tuesday.

“On the morning of the 18th anniversary of 9/11, Donald Trump goes on a tweetstorm complaining about how he’s being treated,” Walsh tweeted. “It’s sick. He’s sick. He’s utterly unfit.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump 9/11 anniversary: The president lashes out moments before speech