Trump orders elimination of student loan debt for thousands of disabled veterans

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE on Wednesday signed a memorandum directing the Department of Education to eliminate all federal student loan debt owed by tens of thousands of severely disabled veterans.

Trump signed the directive following a speech to AMVETS at the organization's 75th annual convention in Kentucky. The announcement drew applause from those in attendance, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosNYC teacher suing DeVos over student loan forgiveness program Trump administration says joint UNC, Duke program portrays Islam too positively Trump awards Medal of Valor, civilian honors to responders in Dayton and El Paso shootings MORE.

"Nobody can complain about that, right?" Trump said. "The debt of these disabled veterans will be entirely erased. It will be gone. They can sleep well tonight."

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump said the memo will apply to more than 25,000 veterans who are "completely and permanently" disabled. Federal taxes will not be applied to the forgiven debt, he added.

"Veterans ... who have made such enormous sacrifices for our country should not be asked to pay any more," he said.

The president has made his support of the armed forces and veterans a calling card of his campaign speeches. He frequently boasts about the hundreds of billions of dollars in funding Congress has allocated in recent years to the military, and regularly cites initiatives to improve the Veterans Affairs Department.

Trump's Department of Education has faced criticism, however, for rolling back Obama-era protections for student borrowers.

Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Krystal Ball calls on Sanders to follow Yang's lead on war on drugs Buttigieg calls Warren 'evasive' on Medicare for all MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Buttigieg calls Warren 'evasive' on Medicare for all Sanders hits 1 million donors MORE (D-Mass.) are among the prominent progressives who have pressed for legislation wiping out large swaths of student debt nationwide, arguing it would foster opportunity and combat income inequality.

Trump at one point told attendees that he would refrain from uttering his reelection slogan because the AMVETS appearance was funded by taxpayers and was "not a campaign speech." But he promptly said he hoped to "keep America great" and touched on a few of topics that regularly come up at his rallies with supporters.

Though he remained mostly on script, Trump recounted withdrawing from the "horrible" Iran nuclear deal, touted the economic boost that comes with manufacturing new military equipment and criticized the "fake news" as he pointed at the press gathered in the auditorium.

The president acknowledged a host of attendees, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPatagonia says to shut stores for a few hours during Global Climate Strike Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes On The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills MORE (R-Ky.) and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R).

Trump praised McConnell as "somebody very special" and pledged to campaign for the GOP leader when he's up for reelection next year. The president was set to attend a fundraiser for Bevin later Wednesday in Louisville.

Earlier in the speech, Trump also recognized Woody Williams, a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient.

"I wanted one, but they told me I don’t qualify, Woody," Trump quipped. "I say, 'can I give it to myself anyway?' They say, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’”