Hurricane Harvey: Trump faces test of first major storm during his presidency

Posted on: August 25th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments — President Trump faces the first major storm of his presidency as Texas braces for Harvey, which is forecasted to make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane early Saturday morning. Harvey is expected to cause “catastrophic flooding” across portions of southern and southeastern Texas, according to the National Weather Service.

The president tweeted a photo of himself receiving a briefing from Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Thomas Bossert and Brock Long, the new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator, on Friday.

Received a #HurricaneHarvey briefing this morning from Acting @DHSgov Secretary Elaine Duke, @FEMA_Brock, @TomBossert45 and COS John Kelly.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2017

Trump heads to Camp David later Friday afternoon.

The Department Homeland Security is still without a permanent secretary after Trump appointed its former head to be his chief of staff. According to the Washington Post, Trump’s nominees for two top positions in FEMA, the deputy administrator and the deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness — have not yet been confirmed either.

On Thursday, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders batted down potential concerns.

“There’s certainly someone at the helm. We have acting Secretary Elaine Duke who’s watching this closely, very involved in the process,” Sanders said.

“I think that we are in great shape, having General Kelly sitting next to the president throughout this process, and probably no better chief of staff for the president during the hurricane season,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the hurricane is “certainly something he’s very aware of and will keep a very watchful eye on,” adding that the president “stands ready to provide resources if needed.”

Trump was also briefed on Harvey on Thursday, the White House said in a statement.

Trump has tweeted three times so far about the hurricane; his first tweet on Thursday was a reminder to plan ahead, including a video of his August 4 visit to FEMA headquarters for a briefing on hurricane season.

As #HurricaneHarvey intensifies – remember to #PlanAhead.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2017

His second tweet was that he had phoned Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards regarding storm preparation.

I have spoken w/ @GovAbbott of Texas and @LouisianaGov Edwards. Closely monitoring #HurricaneHarvey developments & here to assist as needed.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2017

The third was the photo of him receiving this morning’s briefing.

FEMA Administrator Long urged people in the path of the storm to heed warnings and to take evacuation orders seriously.

“This may be the first major landfall hurricane we’ve had since 2005,” Long said in an interview on “Good Morning America” Friday. “So there’s going to be damage.”

First Lady Melania Trump also tweeted about the hurricane.

For those living near the path of #HurricaneHarvey stay safe! Thoughts & prayers of an entire country are with you.

— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) August 25, 2017

Natural disasters are frequently a test with political ramifications for sitting presidents, as the nation looks to its leader for inspiration and strength in trying times.

President Obama responded to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 during his re-election campaign against GOP challenger Mitt Romney. An ABC News/Washington Post poll at the time showed that 8 in 10 likely voters thought President Obama did an “excellent” or “good” job responding to the super storm that hit parts of New Jersey and New York particularly hard. At the time, Romney told CNN that he felt it was Obama’s response to the crisis that helped win him re-election.

On the other hand, President Bush was strongly criticized for his response to Hurricane Katrina, and his critics blasted him for being disconnected from the crisis in New Orleans.

He may face an uphill battle when it comes to the public’s opinion of his ability to handle a crisis: 52 percent of Americans said they do not trust Trump during a crisis, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from April, which was 100 days into Trump’s presidency.

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