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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' 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 DeVosClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump DeVos says Trump 'could talk about education more' Republicans to hand out 'baseball cards' mocking Gary Peters in Michigan 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."

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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 SandersWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll The polls are asking the wrong question Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll Warren avoids attacks while building momentum Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt 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 McConnellDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Overnight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts 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.’”