Trump: Texas will get 'every asset under my command'

President Trump vowed Monday that the state of Texas would get “every asset under my command” as the Gulf region deals with catastrophic floods that have displaced tens of thousands of people.

At a White House press conference on Monday, Trump sought to reassure those affected by Hurricane Harvey, since downgraded to a tropical storm, that his threat to shut down the government over funding for a border wall would not delay federal assistance for those in need.

Responding to a question from Dallas Morning News reporter Todd Gilman, Trump said the threatened government shutdown “has nothing to do” with the government’s hurricane response.


“This is separate and I think it’s going to go really quickly,” Trump said. “I’ve spoken to many of the people we’re talking about and everyone feels the same way I do.”

“You will see very rapid action, certainly from the president, and you will get your funding,” Trump said.

Congress has an end-of-November deadline to agree on a budget before the government runs out of money.

Some 30,000 people are seeking refuge in temporary shelters and about a 500,000 are expected to seek disaster assistance because of flooding, the worst Texas has ever seen.

Vice President Pence, who was seated in the front row for the press conference and visited Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters earlier in the day, said 25,000 people had already petitioned for disaster assistance.

Rain continues to pound Houston, with initial estimates of 20 inches of rainfall growing to 50 inches. Eight people are reported dead and the water rescuers are looking for people trapped on rooftops above their submerged homes.

In a Monday interview with Houston's KHOU radio station, Pence responded to worries that FEMA’s $3 billion disaster relief fund would not be sufficient.

“We truly believe that we have the reserves to address the financial burden of this crisis,” Pence said. “But candidly … we're very confident that the Congress of the United States is going to be there to provide the resources necessary.”

“We actually anticipate that as many as a half-million people in Texas will be eligible for and applying for financial disaster assistance, and we remain very confident that with the reserves and with the support in the Congress, we’ll have the resources that we need,” he added.

There are also concerns about FEMA’s ability to process and respond to 500,000 applicants, but Pence noted Monday that the primary focus at this point remains on search and rescue.

Pence, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert and FEMA Director Brock Long have gone on the airwaves to talk about the government’s response and give directives to those in the storm’s path.

Trump, meanwhile, struck a compassionate tone at a White House press conference.

“Tragic times bring out the best in Americans character, strength, charity and resilience,” Trump said. “We see neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends and strangers helping strangers. You see that all over. You see it on television, such incredible work and love and teamwork. We are one American family. We hurt together. We struggle together. And believe me, we endure together. We are one family. To the people of Texas and Louisiana, we are 100 percent with you. We are praying for you.”

Trump and first lady Melania Trump will visit Texas on Tuesday, although the White House has not confirmed their stops or schedule of events. Trump said that he may go to Louisiana on Saturday and could return for a second swing through Texas on Sunday.

The president is taking a hands-on approach to the natural disaster amid some concerns his visit could be disruptive for a region in crisis. Presidential visits require enormous planning and resources to accommodate, and some believe the Gulf Coast can’t afford any distractions as water search and rescue operations are in full swing.

It is unlikely that Trump will visit Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, where the floods have had the most cataclysmic impact.

On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate votes to take up infrastructure deal Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division MORE (R-Texas) visited Corpus Christi, a coastal town about four hours southwest of Houston. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE (R-Texas) said he was stuck in Houston and unable to travel with them because the roadways are blocked.

There are questions about why Houston was not evacuated beforehand, but local officials are defending the decision, saying it would have been dangerous to put millions of people on the road with such short notice. An attempt to evacuate Houston ahead of 2005's Hurricane Rita caused thousands to be stranded on highways, with one estimate blaming the evacuation for 107 deaths.

Russel Honore, the former commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, said Monday on Fox Business Network that the president needs to “scale it up” and deploy the National Guard and more federal troops and helicopters.

“The military and FEMA have to scale it up,” he said. “The challenge is the continuous winds and weather is challenging, the local air fields are closed. But they’re going to have to figure out a way to get in there as quick as they can because right now this is a lot bigger area, a lot more people than Katrina, and the challenge is going to be bigger.”

After previously mobilizing 4,000 Texas National Guard troops, Abbott on Monday activated the remaining 8,000 to assist in search and rescue.

Trump said that 8,500 federal personnel have been stationed in southeast Texas this week.

The president has been sending periodic updates about the storm over Twitter along with pictures of himself meeting with officials about the government’s response.

While Trump and his team have coordinated a highly visible response to Hurricane Harvey, the president has tweeted out attacks against his political rivals in between, including former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMillennial momentum means trouble for the GOP Biden's Cuba problem: Obama made a bet and lost Democrats need a coherent response to attacks on critical race theory MORE.

He has also pushed unrelated agenda items, such as building a southern border wall and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The president was criticized on Friday night for pardoning Joe Arpaio, the controversial former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., and for implementing his ban on transgender troops at a time when the nation was gripped by Harvey's landfall as a Category 4 storm.

This report was updated on Aug. 29 at 10:38 a.m.