Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Politics

Trump prepares to travel to Texas as state copes with Harvey

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday prepared to visit Texas to view the federal government's response to Harvey's devastating flooding as his administration vowed to help the millions of residents dealing with the catastrophic storm.

Harvey represented the first major natural disaster of Trump's presidency and a significant test for a White House that is often chaotic and rife with infighting. Attention on Harvey from officials, the public and the news media also allowed Trump to refocus after a turbulent stretch that included his widely criticized response to the white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Vice President Mike Pence said in a series of radio interviews on Monday that the Trump administration would "be there for the long haul to help rebuild Texas and all the affected areas from Hurricane Harvey."

"The president has been continuously engaged in this. We've all been deeply concerned by the impact of this storm," Pence told KTRH radio in Houston. "We're saddened by the loss of life and the president is anxious to come to the region."

Pence said Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and Cabinet officials would visit Tuesday.

Trump spent most of the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, and convened his Cabinet by telephone during the weekend. He tweeted on Sunday a promise of a Texas visit "as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption" — later announced by the White House as Tuesday. Details on the president's itinerary were not yet immediately available.

But by traveling to the region just days after Harvey made landfall, the president raised questions among his critics on whether his presence would complicate efforts by emergency responders to help Texans still in need.

Jennifer Psaki, a former aide to President Barack Obama, tweeted: "It is always a tricky calculation on when to go, but (at)realDonaldTrump going too early to Texas (tues) would divert significant resources."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican and Trump ally, however, loaded heavy praise on the president and the federal government, describing it as an "A-plus" effort.

"I've got to tell you, I give FEMA a grade of A+, all the way from the president down," Abbott said. "I've spoken to the president several times, to his Cabinet members, such as secretary of homeland security, such as the administrator of FEMA, such as Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services."

The devastating storm has dumped more than two feet of rain, sending thousands of people in Houston to rooftops for rescue and prompting a warning from Federal Emergency Management Agency director Brock Long of a "landmark event" that could require years to get damaged areas back on track.

Harvey made landfall along the Gulf Coast on Friday night as a Category 4 storm near Corpus Christi, and moved northeast along the Texas coast over Houston. Abbott said he expected heavy rain "for days to come."

The governor commended Trump for being "extremely professional, very helpful" in moving quickly to grant his request Friday for an immediate disaster declaration, which triggers additional federal assistance to aggrieved areas.

Abbott said the focus was on rescue in the Houston area, citing multiple high-level vehicles sent in late Saturday night that were being manned by the National Guard, but that boats and helicopters will be available all across east Texas for swift water rescue. Still, in many areas, Houston officials were reporting flooding so widespread that rescuers were getting too many calls to respond to each one and had to prioritize life-and-death situations.

In his tweets, Trump praised Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long for "doing a great job" and touted the "great coordination between agencies at all levels of government." He also tweeted Sunday morning about his Cabinet meeting to address Harvey. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, is currently without a secretary.

"Major rescue operations underway!" he wrote.

The Trump administration efforts seek to offer a contrast to President George W. Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in August 2005 and left more than 1,500 dead. The mismanaged response of Bush's FEMA administrator, Michael Brown, to that hurricane, as well as Bush's praise of Brown for doing a "heck of a job" in the immediate days after, dogged Bush for the rest of his presidency.

Abbott spoke on ABC's This Week and Fox News Sunday, and Long appeared on CNN's State of the Union and NBC's Meet the Press.

Comments
PolitiFact: Fact-checking the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit

PolitiFact: Fact-checking the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit

President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin made inaccurate statements to the media following their one-on-one talks in Helsinki about election meddling, global terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation.Hereís a rundown of our fact-checks.Trump:...
Published: 07/17/18
Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

JOHANNESBURG —†Former U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday took aim at "strongman politics" in his highest-profile speech since leaving office, urging people around the world to respect human rights and other values now under threat in an imp...
Published: 07/17/18
Romano: Excuse me Gov. Scott, but youíre a hypocrite

Romano: Excuse me Gov. Scott, but youíre a hypocrite

Hypocrisy, thy name is Rick Scott.And, yes, I owe Shakespeare an apology.But I think Floridaís governor owes all of us an apology.This isnít about one manís opinion, and it isnít about philosophical differences. This is about a politician who is publ...
Published: 07/17/18
Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

HELSINKI ó Standing next to Russiaís Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agenciesí conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trumpís benefit and seemed to accept Putinís i...
Published: 07/16/18

Pasco Political Notebook

Hunter, Murphy speak to Democratic ClubThe Trinity Democratic Club will host candidates Chris Hunter (running for U.S. Congress in District 12) and Amanda Murphy (running for state Senate in District 16) as guest speakers at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. ...
Published: 07/16/18
Giant pork pile awaits Americans as trade wars risk exports

Giant pork pile awaits Americans as trade wars risk exports

Donald Trumpís trade wars are making pork a bargain.American production is poised to reach an all-time high this year, and output is forecast to surge again in 2019. The supply boom comes as tariffs from China and Mexico threaten to curb export deman...
Published: 07/16/18
Sacha Baron Cohen still knows how to punk America, but his new show erodes what little trust we have left

Sacha Baron Cohen still knows how to punk America, but his new show erodes what little trust we have left

Sacha Baron Cohenís return to incognito trickery is, in current conditions, a little like pouring rubbing alcohol into the nationís open wounds.Employing the same ingenious commitment and subterfuge that made him famous in the guise of Ali G., Borat ...
Published: 07/15/18
Trump tweets, hits links before high-stakes Putin meeting

Trump tweets, hits links before high-stakes Putin meeting

TURNBERRY, Scotland ó Two days before a high-stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump played golf and tweeted Saturday from one of his namesake resorts, blaming his predecessor for Russian election meddling and lash...
Published: 07/14/18
March column: Transit petition has

March column: Transit petition has "steep hill"

Leaders of an effort to put a Hillsborough County transportation sales tax referendum on the November ballot say theyíre confident theyíll gather enough petition signatures in time.But they may have to work fast. As of Thursday, All for Transportatio...
Published: 07/13/18
Updated: 07/15/18
Scott taps former Pinellas GOP chair to fill commission vacancy left by late John Morroni

Scott taps former Pinellas GOP chair to fill commission vacancy left by late John Morroni

Gov. Rick Scott appointed real estate investor and former Redington Shores Mayor Jay Beyrouti to the Pinellas County Commission on Friday, filling the vacancy created when Commissioner John Morroni died of cancer in May.In a short news release, the G...
Published: 07/13/18