Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump toured the re­gion Tues­day, stop­ping at the Texas Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety Emer­gency Op­er­a­tions Cen­ter in Austin to praise re­lief ef­forts, but noted that the task is far from fin­ished.

Pres­i­dent praises of­fi­cials, re­sponse dur­ing visit to state

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Hai­ley Bran­son-Potts and Noah Bier­man Hai­ley Bran­son-Potts re­ported from Cor­pus Christi. Noah Bier­man and Brian Ben­nett re­ported from Wash­ing­ton. hai­ley.bran­son@la­times.com

COR­PUS CHRISTI, Texas — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day as­sured Tex­ans slammed by Har­vey that “we are here to take care of you” and promised a “bet­ter than ever be­fore” re­lief ef­fort, as he vis­ited the state while res­cuers con­tin­ued to pull peo­ple from sub­merged homes.

Dur­ing vis­its to Cor­pus Christi and then to the state cap­i­tal of Austin, Trump re­peat­edly praised fed­eral, state and local of­fi­cials. But he said little about vic­tims who had lost their homes and loved ones to the his­toric storm.

“The world is watch­ing and the world is very im­pressed with what you are do­ing,” Trump told of­fi­cials at the Texas Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety op­er­a­tions cen­ter in Austin who were co­or­di­nat­ing res­cue and shel­ter op­er­a­tions.

Per­haps more wel­come than praise was the pres­i­dent’s prom­ise of un­spec­i­fied fed­eral aid. “We are work­ing with Congress on help­ing out the state of Texas, it’s go­ing to be a costly propo­si­tion,” Trump said, nod­ding to Texas’ two U.S. sen­a­tors and sev­eral House mem­bers, all Repub­li­cans, who joined him.

“Prob­a­bly there’s never been any­thing so ex­pen­sive in our coun­try’s his­tory,” he added.

While aid is all but cer­tain, get­ting sig­nif­i­cant re­lief through Congress will be com­pli­cated. Law­mak­ers not only have a packed and trou­ble­some leg­isla­tive agenda in Septem­ber, but also mem­bers of both par­ties har­bor re­sent­ments that Texas Repub­li­cans op­posed past bills for dis­as­ter aid, no­tably in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Sandy that tore up the East Coast five years ago.

Ear­lier in the day, the pres­i­dent an­tic­i­pated suc­cess in the re­sponse ef­fort even as rains and over­flow­ing dams fed flood­wa­ters: “We won’t say con­grat­u­la­tions. We don’t want to do that,” he said from a fire depart­ment in Cor­pus Christi, where he met with Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott and other of­fi­cials.

“We’ll con­grat­u­late each other when it’s all fin­ished,” he said.

Trump seemed mind­ful of not re­peat­ing the fa­mous mis­take of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, who en­thused, “Brownie, you’re do­ing a heck­uva job” to his Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency di­rec­tor dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina. Michael Brown led the botched re­sponse to that dev­as­tat­ing storm that hit 12 years ago.

Still, Trump, clad in a “USA” cap and a wind­breaker with a pres­i­den­tial seal, did not shy from rais­ing ex­pec­ta­tions for the re­sponse ef­fort. “We want to do it bet­ter than ever be­fore,” he said. “We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it.”

Although Trump was care­ful to re­main out­side the worst of the state’s flood­ing cri­sis, the short ride from the air­port in Cor­pus Christi to the fire­house along In­ter­state 37 gave him and first lady Me­la­nia Trump a glimpse of what the state is up against.

They passed bro­ken trees, downed signs and fences that had been tossed about. Still, hun­dreds of res­i­dents made their way out­side the meet­ing to greet the pres­i­dent, some hoist­ing cam­paign signs and oth­ers protest plac­ards.

Ab­bott, a Repub­li­can, praised Trump and his Cab­i­net mem­bers, sev­eral of whom ac­com­pa­nied him, say­ing the pres­i­dent and his ad­vis­ers be­gan pre­par­ing for the storm days be­fore its ar­rival.

“They all had one thing to say,” Ab­bott said. “Texas, what do you need? How can we help?”

Trump spoke about the work of of­fi­cials and the re­cov­ery ef­forts, leav­ing it to oth­ers to dis­cuss the storm’s con­tin­u­ing risks and the loss of life.

When he left the fire­house, Trump mounted a lad­der be­tween fire trucks to ad­dress the crowd out­side. “We love you, you are spe­cial, we are here to take care of you,” he said. “It’s go­ing well.”

“What a crowd, what a turnout,” he said. “It’s his­toric, its epic, but I tell you, it hap­pened in Texas, and Texas can han­dle any­thing.”

The crowd cheered as Trump waved a Texas flag.

But not ev­ery­one came to cheer. “This is a bla­tant politi­ciza­tion of the hur­ri­cane ef­forts and ev­ery­thing that just hap­pened to this com­mu­nity,” said Ben Fal­con, 17, of Cor­pus Christi, hold­ing an or­ange poster board read­ing “Love Trumps Hate.”

Congress has not out­lined a plan to tackle the needs of Texas and Louisiana, the two states tak­ing the brunt of Har­vey.

State and local of­fi­cials are still re­spond­ing to the safety threat and have not be­gun to fully as­sess the long-term costs of the stil­lun­fold­ing storm.

JIM WAT­SON/AFP

JIM WAT­SON/GETTY-AFP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump holds up the Texas flag out­side a fire station in Cor­pus Christi.

EVAN VUCCI/AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, ac­com­pa­nied by Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott, speaks dur­ing a brief­ing on Har­vey re­lief ef­forts.

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