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Harvey Is First Major Natural Disaster For Trump Administration

Aug 29, 2017
Originally published on August 29, 2017 6:17 am
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Over the last few days, President Trump has been tweeting a lot about rescue efforts in Texas. He's offered praise for, quote, "great coordination between agencies at all levels of government." Today, President Trump gets to see it for himself.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

That's right. This morning, the president is landing in Corpus Christi, and then he's going to go on to the state capital, Austin, to look at the emergency response by officials there. And Ailsa, I mean, this is the first major natural disaster of the Trump presidency. And this is a major test for any administration - certainly, for an administration that has struggled in recent weeks over how it responded to the events in Charlottesville.

And I've been talking to people here in Houston. I asked one about this visit - Carolyn Wilson (ph). She's a longtime Houstonian, lot - like a lot of people, I mean, her apartment totally flooded. She managed to drive herself to this hotel with her daughter, her three cats, her dog. This is where we met her. And I asked, what is she expecting to hear from President Trump?

CAROLYN WILSON: You know, I hope he really shows that he's going to help the Houstonians, because they need it.

GREENE: What do you think? Have you liked him up till this point or...

WILSON: Honestly, no. But I know that he's a businessman, and he understands, you know, money makes the world go round sometimes, you know? I mean...

GREENE: It sounds like this could be a moment for him to prove himself to you.

WILSON: Prove himself - that's how I feel. He's going to make it or break it with this.

GREENE: She makes it sound like an important moment for the president.

CHANG: Yeah. And for more on President Trump's trip, we're joined by NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley.

Hey, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Ailsa.

CHANG: Good morning. So you know, the president has been criticized a lot lately for striking the wrong tone at press conferences, at rallies. It's still early, but how are people rating his response to Harvey so far?

HORSLEY: I think, in general, the marks have been fairly positive. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who is another Republican and a supporter of the president, called the federal effort A-plus. And yesterday at the White House, the president did strike, I think, an appropriately somber and unifying tone. He talked about how tragedy brings out the best in Americans. He said, we hurt together, we struggle together, and we endure together.

CHANG: You know, you think back to the powerful images of presidents visiting scenes of disaster or tragedy - President George W. Bush on top of that rubble following 9/11 or President Obama touring the Louisiana floods last year. How important is this visit for Trump at this particular moment in his presidency?

HORSLEY: Trump could certainly use a lift. His approval ratings have been stuck down below 40 percent. And of course, a lot of the problems for this White House have been of the president's own making. The interesting thing about Harvey is this is really one of the first disasters from external forces that this president has had to confront. And obviously, the rain falls on Republican counties and Democratic counties alike, so this is an opportunity for Trump to have his own sort of bullhorn moment and show his talents to be comforter in chief.

CHANG: I also want to turn now to some reporting that's been both in The New York Times and The Washington Post. It's about a story we haven't heard about as much about lately, the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia last year. What is this latest story all about?

HORSLEY: This is a different kind of storm cloud for the president. The two newspapers have been reporting on an effort by Trump associate Felix Sater, who is a Russian-American businessman, to broker a deal in which the Trump Organization and Donald Trump would attach his name to a planned high-rise development in Moscow. Now, this was happening in late 2015 and early 2016, while Trump was running for president. The project never got off the ground. But according to The New York Times, Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen actually reached out to an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin in hopes he could sort of grease the wheels and get this development project going. All this comes from documents handed over to a House intelligence committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election and possible ties to the Trump campaign. Of course, Trump has repeatedly said he didn't have any business interests in Russia. This suggests that wasn't for lack of trying.

CHANG: All right, that's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Thank you, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.