President Donald Trump on Tuesday made his first visit to Texas since becoming president, with stops in Corpus Christi and Austin to express solidarity with the Lone Star State as Texans cope with one of the “epic” disasters of our time.
He brought Cabinet members in tow as a token of his commitment to post-Harvey recovery and rebuilding.
“The world is watching, and the world is very impressed with what you are doing,” Trump told the several dozen emergency workers huddled over their laptops at the state’s command center for the response to Hurricane Harvey. The operations center is located at the Texas Department of Public Safety headquarters on North Lamar Boulevard.
The president, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, was introduced to applause by Gov. Greg Abbott.
“The person who has enabled us to have the resources we need is the president of the United States,” Abbott said.
But Trump, in a short boardroom meeting that followed with lawmakers, including U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and a number of Cabinet members — including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, and Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon — noted the daunting task ahead.
“Probably, there’s never been anything so expensive in our country’s history. There’s never been anything so historic in terms of damage and in term of ferocity as what we’ve witnessed with Harvey,” the president said. The aftermath, he said, will be “a costly proposition.”
“Harvey,” Trump said. “Sounds like such an innocent name. But it’s not innocent. It’s not innocent.”
But Trump predicted Monday that Congress would move swiftly and in a bipartisan fashion to come to Texas’ rescue.
‘Offer my help and support’
Trump, on behalf of the nation, offered moral support in a time of need and promised help in what looks to be a recovery and rebuilding process of monumental proportions after a hurricane that left Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city and an emblem of America’s capitalist and multicultural dynamism, under water.
The Trumps didn’t visit Houston on Tuesday; they didn’t want to get in the way of what is still a dire rescue operation. But they might return to Texas as soon as Saturday.
“The effects of Hurricane Harvey will be felt in Texas, Louisiana, and other parts of the country for many months and years to come,” the first lady said in a rare statement, issued by the White House as Air Force One cut through the late afternoon summer sky on the way back to Washington.
“So far, 1.7 million people are under orders to evacuate their homes, and, as the floodwater in Houston rises, sadly, so will the number of evacuees,” the first lady said. “I want to be able to offer my help and support in the most productive way possible, not through just words, but also action.”
“What I found to be the most profound during the visit was not only the strength and resilience of the people of Texas, but the compassion and sense of community that has taken over the state,” she said.
If the president, who wore a black-on-white USA baseball cap, is not one for public displays of empathy, Abbott reported in Austin that on the flight from Corpus Christi, Trump was shown videos of the devastation and, “the president is heartbroken by what he saw, and we will rebuild, because that’s the American way.”
In Austin, Trump effused about the “love and coordination and so many things coming out of Texas.”
The day began at a fire station in Corpus Christi’s Annaville area with local officials and representatives of the Red Cross, local utilities and others involved in the recovery effort.
“This was of epic proportions,” Trump said. “Nobody has 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.”
“So, governor, again, thank you very much,” Trump said. “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.”
Abbott — who has been effusive in his praise for the work of the Trump administration from the president on down — returned the compliment.
“About 10 days in advance of the hurricane even coming into the Corpus Christi area, members of the president’s Cabinet and the president himself were in contact with me and my office pre-preparing for this catastrophe that was coming our way,” Abbott said. “And every step of the way, as the hurricane came across the shore, as the flooding began in Houston, Texas, the president and his Cabinet remained in constant contact with me and my staff. And they all had one thing to say: ‘Texas, what do you need? How can we help? You can count on us.’”
“What I have learned is we can count on the president of the United States and his staff for helping Texas,” Abbott said.
Staff writer Johnathan Silver contributed to this report.