Politics

Analysis: As Hurricane Irma Churns, Trump Touts His Team Again

President uses tweets to laud administration, hype storm — but not warn Floridians

A radar image shows Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, making its way through the Atlantic Ocean. Projections have it affecting Florida this weekend. (NOAA image via Wikimedia Commons)

Donald Trump’s message to Floridians likely in the path of Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful recorded Atlantic storms, is not one urging them to get to safety. Rather, the president used the hurricane Wednesday morning to laud his own team’s response to another major storm.

In short, the coming crisis is allowing the president to market his administration as disaster response experts — with him at the helm — for the second time in a few weeks.

Along with pumping up his own team while appearing less interested in the plight of millions of Americans in the hurricane’s projected path — something he also did before Hurricane Harvey battered Texas and Louisiana — Trump also appeared to hype the storm’s power as if it was an explosive episode of “The Apprentice.”

“Hurricane looks like largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!” Trump tweeted.

His first tweet on the storm featured no call for Floridians to heed calls from state and local officials to clear out before Irma crashes into the U.S. mainland. But Trump did send a message about his team loud and clear: He thinks they did a bang-up job responding to Harvey.

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“My team, which has done, and is doing, such a good job in Texas, is already in Florida,” he wrote. “No rest for the weary!”

So far, the president has not tweeted about the residents of Florida who are in the mega-storm’s path - even as his disaster-response agency is running out of money.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has told members of Congress the Disaster Relief Fund is projected to run out of funding on Friday, a Senate Democratic aide told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on a Harvey relief emergency spending bill this week, with House leaders vowing to stay in session until that measure is headed to Trump’s desk. But the coming bill from Irma will only add to FEMA’s financial needs, and could prompt lawmakers to act quickly again in its wake.

Trump also took to Twitter before Harvey made landfall and while it was pummeling Texas and Lousiana to paint it as the worst storm ever, which then allowed him to lavish praise on his and his team’s response.

In an Aug. 27 tweet, he said “many people” were saying Harvey was “the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen.”

During his first visit to Texas, as the storm was still dumping gallons of rain on parts of the state, Trump spoke alongside state and federal officials.

His message, like other stops during two trips to Hurricane-hit areas, was about his team — not storm victims.

“We want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it,” Trump said. “This was of epic proportion. Nobody's ever seen anything like this and I just want to say that working with the governor (Texas Gov. Greg Abbott) and his entire team has been an honor for us.”

“I will tell you, the whole county and the whole world is really seeing and gaining such respect for everybody,” he said the same day in the Lone Star State. “The job you have done is incredible, what we have done is under circumstances, I said before, the word ‘epic’ and ‘historic,’ these are words used to describe this monster known as Harvey, but the job you have done is special.”

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That day, he said very little about Harvey victims.

During his second trip to the region on Saturday, even as he was interacting with storm victims at a Houston shelter, the president’s mind seemed solely focused on promoting his own administration’s response.

“The message is that things are working out well. Really, I think people appreciate what’s been done,” he told reporters. “It’s been done very efficiently, very well, and that’s what we want. We’re very happy with the way everything is going.”

When reporters asked him what victims at the shelter had just told him, he replied by describing the situation as “wonderful” and “beautiful.”

“They were just happy. We saw a lot of happiness,” he said of the victims. “It’s been really nice. It’s been a wonderful thing. As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing, I think even for the country to watch it and for the world to watch. It’s been beautiful.”

— Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this report.

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