Trump expected to visit areas affected by Florence next week

Trump expected to visit areas affected by Florence next week

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE plans to travel to areas affected by Hurricane Florence next week once conditions improve and his visit won't disrupt recovery efforts, the White House said Friday.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement to The Hill that Trump would head to storm-damaged regions "early to middle next week" and that more information about his travel plans would be forthcoming.

The president is "expected to travel to areas affected by the storm early to middle of next week, once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts,” Sanders said.

Florence made landfall near Wilmington, N.C., on morning Friday as a Category 1 storm. An estimated 1.5 million people live in the areas currently under mandatory evacuation orders by state authorities.

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The first deaths attributed to the storm were reported Friday, including a mother and child who were killed when a tree fell on their house in Wilmington.

Federal and local officials have warned for days for residents in the storm's path in the Carolinas to make preparations for the hurricane and heed evacuation orders.

Trump's visit to affected areas on the East Coast comes days after he stoked controversy over the federal response to another storm – Hurricane Maria, which ravaged Puerto Rico last year.

The president sparked furor on Twitter this week when he claimed that the official death toll from Hurricane Maria was inflated by Democrats to harm him politically.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the aftermath of the storm, according to an estimate from researchers at Georgetown University that was adopted by the Puerto Rican government as the official death toll for the storm.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths," Trump claimed in a tweet Thursday. "As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000."

"If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!" he added.

The remarks were heavily criticized by Democrats and some members of his own party, including Florida Republicans such as Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisTrump's baby blimp arrives in Florida for Mar-a-Lago protest Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states San Juan mayor calls Hurricane Maria ‘Trump's Katrina’ MORE (R), who are running for Senate and governor, respectively.

Last year, the president was mocked by some on social media after he was caught on camera tossing rolls of paper towels to Puerto Rico residents during his visit to inspect cleanup and recovery efforts on the island.

Trump has long claimed that Puerto Rico remains a "success" story for his administration, despite the official death toll rising to the thousands.