Trump dispenses hoagies, handshakes in Florida after Irma
President praises federal, state recovery efforts.
President NAPLES, FLA. — Donald Trump doled out hoa-
gies and handshakes in the sweltering Florida heat on Thursday as he took a first- hand tour of Irma’s devasta
tion and liberally dispensed congratulatory words about the federal and state recovery effort.
Trump, who was in and out of the state in about three hours, got an aerial view of
the water-deluged homes along Florida’s southwestern coast from his helicop- ter, then rode in his motor- cade along streets lined with felled trees, darkened traffic lights and shuttered stores on his way to a mobile home community hit hard by the storm.
Walking along a street in Naples Estates with his wife, Melania, the president encountered piles of broken
siding and soggy furniture sitting on a front porch, and residents and volunteers who were happy to get a presidential visit.
“We are there for you 100 percent,” Trump said before donning gloves and helping to hand out sandwiches to local residents.
“I’ll be back here numer- ous times. This is a state that I know very well.”
As he left Florida, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he planned another hurricane-related trip, to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which both suffered severe damage from Irma.
“I spoke to both governors. We’ve got it very well covered,” Trump said. “Virgin Islands was really hit. They were hit about as hard as I’ve ever seen.”
The president brushed off a question about whether
the recent hurricanes had made him rethink his views on climate change, which he has previously dismissed as a hoax.
“If you go back into the 1930s and the 1940s, and you take a look, we’ve had storms over the years that have been bigger than this,” he said.
Trump earlier met with federal and state leaders in Fort Myers, where he was brimming with enthusiasm for the state and federal response effort, calling it “a team like very few people have seen.”
The president couldn’t resist injecting a political flavor into his visit, telling reporters in Fort Myers that he was hopeful Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a two-term Republican, would run for the Senate, where Democrat Bill Nelson is up for re-election next year.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do. But I know at a certain point it ends for you
and we can’t let it end. So I hope he runs for the Senate,” Trump said.
Trump’s visit offered him the chance to see how people are coping with Irma’s aftermath and how the Federal Emergency Management Agency is respond
ing. Many Florida residents remain swamped and without electricity. Nearly 2.7 million homes and businesses, about 1 in 4 Florida customers, were still without power Thursday.
But as Trump’s comments about Scott suggested, poli
tics wasn’t far from the surface in Florida, the largest and most pivotal state in recent presidential elections. Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Florida last year by about 1 percentage point.