Trump goes hands-on in return to storm-ravaged Gulf Coast
President Trump appeared in good spirits Saturday while taking a more hands-on approach during his second visit to Texas in less than a week in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
In Houston, Trump and first lady Melania Trump handed out food in a lunch line, visited with children at a shelter and met with residents affected by the storm.
“They were just happy. We saw a lot of happiness,” the president told reporters after visiting Houston’s NRG Center, which is being used as a shelter for hurricane victims.
“It’s been really nice. It’s been a wonderful thing,” he added. “As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing, I think even for the country to watch it and for the world to watch. It’s been beautiful.”
While other public appearances this week focused on Trump overseeing the federal and local response, the president’s appearance Saturday largely involved showing a more personal side as he interacted with storm victims.
The trip brought familiar scenes too, including Trump taking selfies with doting supporters and signing autographs. In Houston, that included signing the wall of the NRG Center, a convention center housing people displaced by the storm.
On Tuesday, in his first trip to Texas since Harvey struck the state, Trump stayed out of the disaster zone and made little mention of the victims of the storm. Instead, he met with local and state officials, boasted about the size of the crowd that had turned out to greet him and vowed a swift federal response to the devastation.
“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,” he said Tuesday in Corpus Christi.
But on Saturday, Trump visited one of the areas hardest hit by the storm, where he came off as upbeat and, at times, lighthearted.
While preparing to serve food at a lunch line in Houston, for example, Trump joked that his hands were “too big” to fit in the plastic serving gloves.
And after a uniformed military member told Trump that he and some other service members that were present had voted for him, the president joked: “You better.”
Later in the day, as he visited the Houston suburb of Pearland, Trump helped load boxes of emergency supplies into people’s cars.
“It’s good exercise,” he told a man, after loading a few American Red Cross buckets into the back of his pickup truck.
Trump’s hands-on visit followed one by Vice President Pence on Thursday, during which he helped Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) clear fallen branches and debris from a road in Rockport on the Gulf Coast.
The visit also came a day after the White House sent lawmakers a request for an initial $7.85 billion in disaster relief spending for the damage done by Hurricane Harvey. Along with that request, the White House is also asking that $6.7 billion be added to a stopgap spending measure that Congress must pass before the end of the month.
That request is only the tip of the iceberg for what it will cost to recover from the storm, which left at least 47 people dead, caused billions of dollars in damage and dumped historic rains throughout southeast Texas.
Trump returned to Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base Saturday afternoon, where he talked with members of Texas’s congressional delegation and posed for photos with military personnel.
Not long after, Air Force One took off from the base and Trump was on his way to Louisiana.