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Trump surveys hurricane damage in Texas

Trump surveys hurricane damage in Texas
© Getty

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump touched down in Texas on Tuesday to survey damage from the catastrophic rain and flooding that has displaced tens of thousands of people in the Gulf Coast region of the country.

Trump is visiting Corpus Christi, a coastal town near where Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday night. Trump is about four hours southwest of Houston, the nation’s fourth most populous city, which is in the midst of massive search-and-rescue operations after flooding.

The president waved to cameras as he exited Air Force One wearing a dark windbeaker and white hat, with the first lady at his side. From there the president headed to the Annaville Fire Department for a roundtable briefing.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), FEMA administrator Brock Long and senior officials representing the Coast Guard and other emergency responders briefed the president.

Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSasse statement: Trump nominee who spread conspiracy theories has a ‘tinfoil hat’ Coalition of 44 groups calls for passage of drug pricing bill For the sake of our democracy, politicians must stop bickering MORE (R-Texas) and John CornynJohn CornynDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants 'lazy' McConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation MORE (R-Texas) were on hand, as was Rep. Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdHouse passes landmark bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy on Capitol Hill House to vote on sexual harassment overhaul this week This week: Congress races to prevent another shutdown MORE (R-Texas), whose district encompasses Corpus Christi.

Seated in the middle of the group, Trump said he wanted his White House to be remembered for its response to the hurricane.
 
“We want to do it better than ever before,” Trump said. “We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it. This [storm] was of epic proportion. Nobody's ever seen anything like this and I just want to say that working with the governor and his entire team has been an honor for us … We won't say congratulations. We don't want to do that. We don't want to congratulate. We'll congratulate each other when it's all finished, but you have been terrific.”

After the meeting, Trump climbed a ladder onto a firetruck and used a microphone to address the crowd that had gathered before waving the Texas flag. 

"Thank you," Trump said to applause. “We love you, you are special, we are here to take care of you. It's going well."

"What a crowd, what a turn out" Trump said.

That last remark was criticized on social media, as some viewed it as the president being obsessed with crowd size and his own supporters.

Trump also thanked Abbott for the “total cooperative effort.”

“Texas can handle anything,” Trump said.

Corpus Christi has not sustained the same level of flooding and damage as Houston or other coastal towns, but the president’s travel options are limited by the floods and the White House has indicated it is eager not to interfere with the work being done by emergency responders.

"The president wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn't disrupt any of the recovery efforts that are still ongoing, which is the reason for the locations we are going here today,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One.

"As of right now, I don't know that we will be able to get to some of the really damaged areas.”

Trump brought many key members of his Cabinet and White House team on the trip, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, small business administrator Linda McMahon, chief of staff John Kelly, deputy chiefs Joe Hagin and Kirstin Nielsen, and senior advisers Dina Powell and Marc Short.

"The first part of the trip and one of the main, primary reasons for secretaries Price, Secretary Carson and Administrator McMahon [being here], each of their agencies will play a really big role particularly in the recovery efforts going forward, and today they will be with their counterparts of the governor's Cabinet, so that they can really come back and make sure that we are all-in to offer federal assistance and lay the foundation for what we know is going to be a long recovery effort,” Sanders said.

"Those are agencies that will have a pretty heavy lift in this process and so we want to make sure that they have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with, with not just the state, but also the local authorities," she said.

From Corpus Christi, Trump will go to Austin, Texas's capital, where he’ll tour emergency operations and receive a second briefing from state leaders.

Updated: 2:30 p.m.