Wednesday July 18th, 2018 12:07PM

Evolving Trump: From business celeb on 9/11 to stern leader

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the 16 years since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Donald Trump has evolved from a celebrity developer whose first public thoughts were about Manhattan's suddenly altered skyline to the combative commander in chief who warned "savage killers" on Monday "there is no dark corner beyond our reach."

Trump was in his Fifth Avenue penthouse that clear fall day in 2001, four miles from the World Trade Center and, seemingly, in a previous life from the one he now leads.

When the towers fell, he spoke with measured words about the attackers and about the wounds inflicted on his hometown, a sharp contrast to his more recent incendiary rhetoric about terrorists and his unproven claims about celebrating Muslims.

On Monday, his first 9/11 anniversary as president, Trump carried out a sadly familiar ritual for U.S. leaders.

He stood, head bowed and hands clasped, for a moment of silence at the White House to mark the instant that a hijacked airplane had slammed into the World Trade Center. Later, at the Pentagon, where another plane had crashed, he promised American resolve.

"''The terrorists who attacked us thought they could incite fear and weaken our spirit," Trump said. "But America cannot be intimidated, and those who try will join a long list of vanquished enemies who dared test our mettle."

"American forces are relentlessly pursuing and destroying the enemies of all civilized people," he declared. "We are making plain to these savage killers that there is no dark corner beyond our reach, no sanctuary beyond our grasp, and nowhere to hide anywhere on this very large Earth."

Trump's initial response in the hours after terror attacks was more restrained. He had flirted with a presidential run before, but he had yet to embrace some of the hardline ideas that later emerged in his campaign. Nor had he yet had his rebirth as a national celebrity thanks to "The Apprentice."

In a local radio interview, Trump said that if he were president he'd be taking "a very, very tough line" but he drew no conclusions about who perpetrated the assault on American soil.

"Most people feel they know at least approximately the group of people that did this and where they are," Trump told WWOR. "But, boy, would you have to take a hard line on this. This just can't be tolerated."

Trump vowed that his home city's spirit would not be broken. Nor his. He could not resist noting that with the destruction of the 110-story twin towers, his building at 40 Wall Street now stood above all others in Lower Manhattan.

"When they built the World Trade Center it became known as the second tallest," Trump said of his building. "And now it's the tallest."

In the years that followed, Trump's views on terrorism hardened and his claims about 9/11 grew more outlandish and untrue. As a candidate, he often pledged to "bomb the hell out of ISIS" and vowed to enact a Muslim ban.

In 2013, he posted a tweet saying, "I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th." And when his presidential campaign ramped up, he singled out Muslims in saying that "thousands of people were cheering" in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, as the towers collapsed. There is no such evidence in news archives.

Trump also said he lost "hundreds of friends" in the attack and helped clear rubble afterward. He has not provided the names of those he knew who perished in the attack, but has mentioned knowing a Roman Catholic priest who died while serving as a chaplain to the city's fire department.

He also criticized President George W. Bush, accusing him of failing in his duty to keep Americans safe. He repeatedly suggested President Barack Obama had not done enough to stamp out the threat posed by Islamic terror groups — in part by not clearly calling out the danger as "radical Islamic terror."

On Monday, neither Trump nor his top aides used that phrase, though Trump has said it since taking office.

The president has shown some signs of being affected by the gravity of his office. When he announced his war strategy for Afghanistan last month, he acknowledged that "decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office." And on Monday, he took part in what has become a sobering annual tradition: Like Presidents Bush and Obama before him, he received a briefing on current terror concerns on the anniversary itself.

"The purpose of that is to give the president a sense of the terrorist threat globally and to the homeland," said Tom Bossert, Trump's homeland security adviser. Bossert said on this 9/11, there were no known active threats.

The briefing could mark another step in Trump's evolution, offering a fresh reminder that he now is the one most responsible for keeping the nation safe, according to James Clapper, who participated in the sessions as Obama's director of national intelligence.

"The focus in every one of our briefings, no matter the day, was to assess current threats and keep the nation safe," said Clapper. "But around Sept. 11 there was a sense of solemn obligation to those Americans who tragically died that day."


Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.


Follow Lemire on Twitter:

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Entertainment, APOnline Celebrity News
© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Evolving Trump: From business celeb on 9/11 to stern leader
Marking the 0/11 anniversary, President Donald Trump warns the 'savage killers' who might attack again that they cannot escape America's reach anywhere on the planet.
6:24PM ( 3 minutes ago )
Aircraft carrier is rushed to the hurricane-battered Keys
Authorities are sending an aircraft carrier and other Navy ships to hurricane-battered Florida to help with search-and-rescue operations
6:22PM ( 6 minutes ago )
The Latest: Authorities report 1st death in South Carolina
Authorities are reporting the first death in South Carolina related to Tropical Storm Irma
6:21PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Getting up to speed on the Equifax data breach scandal
Equifax scrambles to explain itself since disclosing last week that it exposed vital data about 143 million Americans
5:37PM ( 50 minutes ago )
The Latest: Road into Keys must be inspected before opening
Officials are reporting a second death in Georgia related to Tropical Storm Irma
5:27PM ( 1 hour ago )
Harvey and Irma to slow US economy but rebound should follow
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could cost a combined $200 billion, but rebound likely to follow
5:13PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
The Latest: Americans mark 9/11 with volunteer projects
Some Americans are marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by volunteering on service projects
3:34PM ( 2 hours ago )
Grand Ole Opry to host memorial ceremony for Troy Gentry
A public memorial ceremony will be held Thursday at the Grand Ole Opry for Troy Gentry, of the popular country music duo Montgomery Gentry, who died in a helicopter crash in New Jersey on Friday
2:40PM ( 3 hours ago )
Kristen Bell sings 'Frozen' tunes at Florida Irma shelter
Kristen Bell says she's "singing in a hurricane" while riding out Irma in Florida
2:29PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Mariah Carey's rap collaborations to be honored at VH1 event
Mariah Carey's many collaborations with rap artists will be celebrated at the 2017 VH1 Hip Hop Honors
10:12AM ( 8 hours ago )
Rihanna rides into New York Fashion Week like a rock star
Rihanna didn't walk into New York Fashion Week, she rode through it
7:37AM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Interview: Priyanka Chopra urges more Syria refugee help
AP Interview: Actress Priyanka Chopra says after meeting with Syrian refugees that the world must do more to help them, especially children displaced by war
2:25AM ( 16 hours ago )
APOnline Celebrity News
Aircraft carrier is rushed to the hurricane-battered Keys
Authorities are sending an aircraft carrier and other Navy ships to hurricane-battered Florida to help with search-and-rescue operations
6:22PM ( 6 minutes ago )
The Latest: Authorities report 1st death in South Carolina
Authorities are reporting the first death in South Carolina related to Tropical Storm Irma
6:21PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Rays anticipate returning home for weekend series vs Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays hope to return home to Tropicana Field for weekend series against Boston Red Sox
6:09PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Trump wants Congress to reauthorize surveillance tool
The Trump administration is urging Congress to reauthorize an intelligence surveillance law set to expire at year's end
6:02PM ( 25 minutes ago )
UN to vote on watered-down new sanctions against North Korea
The U.N. Security Council scheduled a vote late Monday on a new, watered-down sanctions resolution against North Korea that eliminates initial U.S. demands to ban all oil imports to the Asian country and freeze international assets of the government
5:59PM ( 28 minutes ago )