President Donald Trump is heading to both North and South Carolina today to assess the federal response to Hurricane Florence, which flooded the east coast last week.
The White House released few specific details of his trip, according to CNN, announcing only that he’ll be arriving mid-morning at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, and that he’s expected to survey flood damage and receive briefings throughout the day.
“We’re going to North Carolina. We’ll then be heading to South Carolina. We’re doing very well there,” he told the press pool as he departed. “But the rivers are cresting. They’re just starting to crest. We’re really just going to say ‘hello’ to all of the folks from FEMA and the military, the people that are working so hard. And I think it will be an incredible day.”
While at least 36 people have died as a result of Florence thus far, Trump focused on the possible political fallout in a series of tweets he sent out yesterday morning.
…that FEMA, our Military, and our First Responders, who are all unbelievable, are a disaster and not doing a good job. This will be a total lie, but that’s what they do, and everybody knows it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2018
As hurricane response dominates the news, Trump continues to draw heat regarding what has been described as his lackluster response to last year’s Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico. Yesterday PolitiFact published an article debunking Trump’s claims that the death toll following Maria rose “like magic.”
According to the president, the method used by a George Washington University study of the Maria death toll “was never done with previous hurricanes because other jurisdictions know how many people were killed. FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER – NO WAY!”
While the government of Puerto Rico had originally set the death toll from Maria at only 16, and eventually revised that to 64, the study that rankled Trump had raised the death toll to just under 3,000 as a result of the hurricane and its impact over the following months. One Harvard study actually set the midpoint death toll at 4,645.
Trump claimed that this revision was a conspiracy by his political opponents to discredit him, claiming that the study was “done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible.”
Ahead of Florence’s landfall last Friday, Trump had been touting his response to Maria, as well as to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, which hit Texas and Florida, respectively, last year. In all instances he was accused of being overly congratulatory to himself even while conditions in all three hurricane zones remained dire.