Waving the Texas state flag, President Donald Trump vowed Tuesday to help storm affected residents get back on their feet as he surveyed the tremendous damage on the ground from Hurricane Harvey and predicted a recovery effort “better than ever before.”
President Trump’s trip to Texas Tuesday was mostly directed at meetings with local officials and emergency responders helping the recovery effort.
Trump stepped outside a Corpus Christi fire house with Texas’ flag in hand, the president too a quick break from the recovery briefings to attempt and boost the spirits of residents who have spent days salvaging their lives, looking for loved ones and getting to safe and dry land while they wait out the flood and continuing rain.
Standing in front of Melania, and between two fire trucks, President Trump told a crowd that had gathered outside the fire house, “We are here to take care of you.”
“We’re going to get you back and operating immediately,” President Trump said, before holding up a large Texas flag.
Trump was briefed moments earlier on relief and recovery efforts alongside Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and FEMA administrator Brock Long.
“We want to do it better than ever before,” the president said of the recovery. “We want to be looked at in five years or ten years from now as this is the way to do it.”
Speaking of the hurricane, Trump said: “This was of epic proportion. Nobody has ever seen anything like this.”
Trump, accompanied by Melania Trump, arrived at Corpus Christi International Airport shortly before noon local time. The first couple was greeted upon arrival by Govenor Abbott.
“We want him to see and understand the enormous challenges that Texans have faced and the need for the aid that he’s providing,” Texas Govenor Abbott told reporters as Air Force One landed.
On Tuesday afternoon, the president will arrive in Austin, where he will tour an emergency operations center and meet with various state officials involved in the recovery effort. The Trumps are scheduled to return to Washington later on Tuesday evening.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One in route to Texas, Sanders said the intention of Tuesday’s trip is to “lay the foundation for what we know will be a long recovery effort.”
Corpus Christi is roughly three hours away from the Houston, where parts of the city are still submerged under water, but Sanders said Trump is keeping his distance from the devastation at this time so he doesn’t interrupt any ongoing recovery efforts.
“The president wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn’t disrupt the recovery efforts that are still ongoing,” Sanders said.
Cabinet members joined the president for the trip to Texas, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, interim Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
Sarah Sanders said the Cabinet officials will be meeting separately with their counterparts in Texas state government during the visit to assist in the effort.
President was also joined by Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.
Trump is expected to return to Texas later this weekend, Sanders said.
During a press conference on Monday, President Trump promised “very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president” on approving disaster funding for Texas.
“We expect to have requests on our desk fairly soon, and we think that Congress will feel very much the way I feel,” the president said. “In a very bipartisan way. That will be nice. But we think you’re going to have what you need and it’s going to go fast.”
Trump played down, and dismissed the notion that emergency funding for Texas could complicate efforts as a spending bill is negotiated with Congress.
“I think it has nothing to do with it, really,” he said. “I think this is separate.”
Meanwhile, President Trump’s campaign committee on Tuesday asked Americans to donate to Hurricane Harvey relief funds, including the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the United Way, the SPCA and the Humane Society. (Related: Watch: Weather Channel Anchor Drops Everything to Make a Very American Rescue)
“This is a time to come together as a nation to support those in need in the wake of this disaster and the unprecedented flooding they are experiencing in the greater Houston and coastal Texas region,” Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and a senior advisor to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., said in a news release.
V.P. Mike Pence said during an interview on a Corpus Christi radio program Tuesday that he also plans to take a trip to Texas later this week.
“My wife and I will be in southeast Texas later this week, and we’re going to continue to provide all of the resources necessary to advance the efforts to rescue people that are enduring this storm,” he said.