Trump Hands-On with Harvey, His First Natural Disaster

The president's handling of the hurricane and furious floods in Texas earns high praise

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) praised President Donald Trump’s handling of Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday, saying on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the White House is being “very responsive” and “very concerned about the people of Texas” as Harvey continues its onslaught.

After Harvey struck southeast Texas on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, many of Trump’s critics wondered how he would handle his first natural disaster as president. More than 1,000 people were rescued overnight Sunday from the flooding, and at least two people died in Texas due to the hurricane thus far. But Trump’s hands-on approach to dealing with now-Tropical Storm Harvey and supporting Abbott’s efforts to keep Texans safe have attracted notice.

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“[The] White House is being very responsive, very concerned about the people of Texas, and a tremendous help to us,” Abbott said on “State of the Union.” “We are getting absolutely everything we need.”

On ABC News’ “This Week,” he added, “We could not be more appreciative of what the federal government has done, from the president on down, because everything we’ve asked for, they have given us.”

“The most important thing was that I made a disaster declaration that the president granted very swiftly. And what that does is it triggers [Federal Emergency Management Agency’s] involvement,” Abbott said. “FEMA has been very actively involved and engaged in this whole process, long before the hurricane even hit ground. And because of their assistance, it means that Texas will be able to begin the rebuilding process very swiftly.”

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Trump’s response to Hurricane Harvey contrasted sharply with his predecessor’s handling of one of the last natural disasters of his tenure in 2016.

Former President Barack Obama fielded intense backlash for his response to the severe flooding that hit Louisiana back in August 2016. While the state struggled to cope, Obama golfed at Martha’s Vineyard roughly 1,600 miles away. Both then-candidate Trump and running mate Mike Pence visited Louisiana to offer their support before Obama made his way out there. In fact, the Obama White House announced an impending visit to Louisiana the same day that Trump toured the state.

Homeland security adviser Tom Bossert reaffirmed Trump’s commitment to aiding Texas during an appearance on “This Week,” telling host George Stephanopoulos that “the president’s focus and mine remains on supporting the governor,” noting that Trump “is giving all the latitude of the federal government that he can possibly give it.”

Bossert said that FEMA Administrator Brock Long has done an excellent job of “coordinating federal efforts across different departments and agencies” and unifying the volunteers and professionals hailing from other states that have joined together in the national effort to respond to Tropical Storm Harvey.

“There’s a lot of effort underway. And what Brock has to do, and what the president has to remain focused on, and what I try to help him focus on, is unity of that effort,” Bossert said. “So unifying all those different things, George, is what we’ll focus on for the next 24 to 48 hours.”

Abbott also praised FEMA for its work, saying on “Fox News Sunday,” “I give FEMA a grade of A-plus, all the way to the president … all across the board, from the White House to the federal administration to FEMA.”

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For his own part, Long praised Trump for his handling of the tropical storm, saying on “State of the Union” that “the president has instilled in me all the power I need.”

“I have no concern. We are doing our job,” Long said, adding that he has “great lines of communication” with Trump.

“We’re already pushing forward recovery housing teams,” Long added. “We’re setting up and gearing up for the next couple of years.”

The president issued a series of tweets Sunday morning in which he detailed his response to the tropical storm and pledged his ongoing support for Texas and those affected by Harvey.

“Great coordination between agencies at all levels of government. Continuing rains and flash floods are being dealt with. Thousands rescued,” Trump tweeted. “Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen. Good news is that we have great talent on the ground.”

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“Wow – Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!” the president added. “I will be going to Texas as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.”

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Bossert said that Trump will visit Texas in person “as soon as he can,” saying, “We’ll go where we can without getting in the way of the operators. We certainly wouldn’t go in a place where we would prevent lifesaving activities from taking place.”

“The president wants to go to show his support. He doesn’t want to go to get in the way, and he’s been very clear about that,” he added.

(photo credit, homepage and article images: NOAA/NASA GOES Project)

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