White House

Hurricane Harvey: Trump readies ‘firepower of the federal government’ to deal with storm

Alex Pappas

As Hurricane Harvey barrels toward Texas, the president’s homeland security adviser said Friday the Trump administration is readying the “firepower of the federal government” ahead of landfall late Friday or early Saturday.

“We're in good hands at the federal level,” homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said during the White House briefing.

He added, “As you might know, the secretary of Homeland Security and the FEMA administrator are responsible for bringing together the firepower of federal government to assist the state and local governments but the state and local governments are in the lead here.”

Hurricane Harvey is the first storm of such magnitude on President Trump’s watch. Bossert said Trump is focused on making sure “the American people in the storm’s path have what they need.”

“This is right up President Trump’s alley,” Bossert said.

The homeland security adviser suggested the president could sign an emergency declaration soon, saying Trump would act “on that very quickly” after it goes through the appropriate channels.

Bossert said the administration has “a lot of respect for and a lot of faith” in the governors of the states in the path of the storm. But he emphasized that they “encourage individual responsibility and planning, as always.”

“This could remain a dangerous storm for days and certainly we don't want to lose any life,” he said.

As the storm neared, the governors of the states in its path also instructed residents to take precautions.

"My priority, as we prepare for Hurricane Harvey, is the safety of those on and near the Gulf Coast," Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott said Friday. "That is why I am strongly urging all Texans in Harvey’s path to heed warnings and evacuation orders from local officials before this storm makes landfall.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, like Abbott in Texas, has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana.

“I will continue to direct all of the necessary resources to preparing for the worst as we all pray for the best, but rest assured, state and local officials are working around the clock to monitor and respond to this potentially dangerous situation,” Edwards said.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the president is already planning to make a trip to Texas sometime early week.

The storm comes as the Department of Homeland Security is without a confirmed secretary. John Kelly, who has been involved in hurricane preparations, left the post to become White House chief of staff. Elaine Duke is serving as acting DHS secretary.

Earlier Friday, the president tweeted that he had spoken to the governors of Texas and Louisiana and met with heads of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA about the storm.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, Sanders said the “storm will likely be very destructive for several days.” 

“The president encourages people in the path of this dangerous storm to heed the advice and orders of their local and state officials,” she said. “The president’s highest priority is the safety of the public and of first responders. Those who ignore evacuation orders could be putting both themselves and first responders in danger.”

Bossert acknowledged he had a role at FEMA during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and said the government has learned lessons since the storm. “What we’ve done is gotten a lot better as a government,” he said.

The president will be monitoring the storm from Camp David this weekend. A spokesman for Vice President Pence said he will remain in Washington over the weekend to coordinate the response with the president.