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President Trump Holds Joint Press Conference With Finland's President

Aug 28, 2017
Originally published on August 29, 2017 2:37 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

President Trump says he will go to Texas tomorrow to visit victims of Hurricane Harvey. The president talked about that visit during a White House news conference this afternoon. He also talked about efforts to secure long-term funding for what promises to be a costly recovery effort along the Gulf Coast.

And NPR's Scott Horsley is with us now to talk about this. And, Scott, the storm is still very active. Where does the president say he's going to go?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, Kelly, the details are still being finalized, but we anticipate the president will sidestep Houston, where the floodwaters are still rising. Instead, he and the first lady will travel to the Corpus Christi area where Harvey came ashore on Friday night. You know, it's always sort of a balancing act with these disaster visits. You don't want the presidential motorcade to interfere with rescue efforts.

But you know, the president has been eager to show his support for the people of Texas. He said today he's been watching the storm coverage on television and that he's been very impressed by the spirit and the teamwork the people of that state have shown.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Right now, every American Heart sends its love and support to those whose lives have been upended - totally upended - totally by this very horrible storm. We ask God for his wisdom and strength. We will get through this. We will come out stronger.

HORSLEY: The president also said he may pay a second visit to Texas this coming weekend, by which time hopefully the rain will have stopped. And depending on the path of the storm, he may add a visit to Louisiana on Saturday as well.

MCEVERS: Well, right now the focus is still on saving lives and feeding and sheltering the people who've been flooded out of their homes. Obviously there is going to be a very long rebuilding period ahead. What is the president saying about that?

HORSLEY: Yeah, he was asked a very pointed question about that by Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News and especially about prospects for what is going to be a multibillion-dollar aid package in Congress at a time when, you know, the president's been threatening a government shutdown if lawmakers don't agree to fund his border wall. So the president acknowledged today rebuilding after the storm will be a costly project. But he seemed confident that lawmakers will spend the money that's needed.

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TRUMP: We think you're going to have what you need, and it's going to go fast. Texas is a unique place. It's a great, great state, great people. And I think you'll be up and running very, very quickly.

HORSLEY: We'll see if that confidence turns out to be justified. You know, after past disasters, Congress has opened its checkbook. Lawmakers authorized a $110 billion in aid after Katrina, $51 billion after Superstorm Sandy. But those have not come without controversy. A lot of Republican lawmakers voted against the Sandy relief back in 2012, and some of their colleagues from New York and New Jersey have not forgotten about that.

MCEVERS: Today was also the first time the president took questions from reporters since he pardoned former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio late-Friday. That pardon has been criticized by people in the president's own party. How did he respond to that?

HORSLEY: It has been criticized. Remember; Sheriff Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring a judicial order that he stop racially profiling Latinos in his aggressive hunt for immigrants who were living in the country illegally. In pardoning Arpaio, who had not even been sentenced yet, critics say Trump was thumbing his nose at the courts and the Constitution. But the president was unapologetic.

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TRUMP: Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders. And Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won.

HORSLEY: The president also disputed the idea that in announcing this pardon on a Friday night just as Harvey was bearing down, he was trying to bury the news. On the contrary, Trump says he figured the storm would boost TV ratings so his pardon would get more coverage. And he also pointed to some controversial pardons and commutations in the past by - for example, Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich just as he was leaving the White House and Barack Obama's decision to shorten the prison sentence of convicted leaker Chelsea Manning.

MCEVERS: NPR's Scott Horsley, thanks a lot.

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