Trump signs 9/11 compensation fund bill alongside first responders

Trump signs 9/11 compensation fund bill alongside first responders
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE on Monday signed legislation extending the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund in a Rose Garden ceremony where he was joined by first responders and families of those who died from illnesses caused by their proximity to the attacks.

Trump, a New York native, praised the courage of those who ran into the Twin Towers and sought to portray himself as intimately familiar with their efforts.

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"The whole world witnessed the might and resilience of our nation in the extraordinary men and women of the New York Fire Department and the New York Police Department," Trump said. "Selfless patriots of unmatched character and devotion. I grew up with them, so I can tell you it’s absolutely true."

"It’s always nice to really know your subject," he added. "I know that subject. These are great people."

Trump later explained that the bill benefits families of those who died responding to the attacks, as well as the scores of first responders who were exposed to toxic air and debris while working near Ground Zero.

"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."

Dozens of first responders attended Monday's event, as did the families of three men who died from complications related to their work near ground zero. That included the family of Lou Alvarez, who died last month just days after testifying before Congress about the need to reauthorize the compensation fund.

With Trump's signature, the bill extends the fund through fiscal 2090, effectively making it a permanent reauthorization. It passed the House in a 402-12 vote earlier this month and later passed the Senate 98-2 in a vote despite concerns from two GOP senators.

No Democrats attended Monday's event, according to a guest list distributed by the White House, but an official said that every member of Congress was invited.

Comedian Jon Stewart, who has championed the fund for years, was also not in attendance.

A White House official said Stewart was invited, along with other New York figures such as former Mayor Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergDemocrats' debate divisions open the race to new (or old) faces Judge Judy: Bloomberg as president could help US heal Bloomberg: Voters must demand 2020 Democrats explain how they will implement their plans MORE (D), Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNew York City lawmakers vote to close Rikers Island jail by 2026 2020 Presidential Candidates Cooperate, or else: New York threatens fines to force people to help block immigration enforcement MORE (D) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). It's unclear when the invitations were sent.

Trump has a complicated history when it comes to the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He has often praised first responders for their courage at the World Trade Center and has spoken at 9/11 memorial events in each year since taking office.

But he has also sparked controversy with comments about the attacks. He has claimed that "thousands of people were cheering" in areas with "large Arab populations" in New Jersey when the Twin Towers fell, though there is no record of such a response and PolitiFact has rated the claim "Pants on Fire."

In a phone interview with a New York television station on the day of the attacks, Trump said that the collapse of the towers made a building he owned the tallest in lower Manhattan.

—Updated at 1:48 p.m.