While traveling aboard Air-Force-One, President Trump held a briefing with officials on the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, and allowed the traveling press pool to participate. [Video and Transcript Below]
[Transcript] THE PRESIDENT: So we were going to take a helicopter to Emerald Isle in North Carolina, which was hit very, very hard. Atlantic Beach was hit very hard. Certain areas were really hit. The Governor is with me. Roy, thank you very much for being here.
GOVERNOR COOPER: Sure, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: The Governor was standing in the rain for a long time, along with a lot of talented people that have really helped us a lot. Lindsey, I’m glad you’re here with us, and we appreciate it very much. And Kevin is here someplace.
ACTING SECRETARY MCALEENAN: I’m behind you.
THE PRESIDENT: Where’s — hello, Kevin. Thank you. Thank you for being here.
We have a big rally tonight for Dan Bishop. I was going to go from Emerald Isle right back into the rally, but now we’ll be very early for our rally. That’s the one thing. But it was, I guess, Roy, they say very dangerous flying conditions. I said, “Let’s do it anyway.” They said, “Sir, we’d rather not.” So, I said, “Okay, I’ll take your word for it.” The greatest pilots in the world.
We will be spending a little time. We’re going to be given a presentation as to what’s happening in North Carolina and a little bit about a couple of the other places. I just spoke to Governor Henry McMaster, and they’re in great shape in South Carolina. They’ve done a really good job.
Roy, maybe I could ask you to say a few words —
GOVERNOR COOPER: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: — and what you need from the federal government.
GOVERNOR COOPER: Yes, sir. First, Mr. President, thank you for coming to North Carolina. We’ve enjoyed our working relationship probably too much. With FEMA, we’re glad to have Mr. Gaynor here with us. And, of course, we’ve had the FEMA team embedded with us at our Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh.
This is the third hurricane that has crossed the coast of North Carolina in less than three years. So this is something that we take very seriously. The widespread damage of Dorian did not approach the damage that we had from Florence and Matthew, but it was still significant in some parts.
We’ve had three deaths in North Carolina related to the storm. Two of them were people who fell off ladders while they were trying to get their house boarded up for the storm. And the other death happened post-storm, with a chainsaw accident with cleanup. We still have about 3,500 people without power, but we had a couple of hundred thousand at one point.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. They’ve done a great job.
GOVERNOR COOPER: One of the hard-hit areas is Ocracoke Island, which they said it’s the worst that they had ever seen. I talked to a man who had a house built in the 1870s, and they had never seen it that bad.
The power is still out there. We’re providing food, resources, working with all of our federal and local partners to provide help there.
The place that you were going to go, Emerald Isle, as the storm approached, it had an EF2 tornado hit an RV park. I toured it on Saturday. The damage was significant. Many homes absolutely destroyed. We had issued an evacuation order, and therefore, most of the people were gone. The few people who were there survived and are lucky that they are alive. And they — I’m sure they appreciated the fact that you had planned to go and see. And I know we have local government officials here who were ready.
We have a nuclear power plant at Brunswick which had to be powered down as the storm him. Today it’s powered back up, and we think everything is okay with that. We still have about 20 road closures. We don’t have anything approaching the last two storms, but we still have some there. We’ve got 125 National Guard activated now, down from 577.
What we would request, Mr. President, is an expedited disaster declaration for both debris removal and for emergency protective measures. And we’ve got joint preliminary damage assessments going on right now with state, FEMA, local, trying to determine the extent of the damage.
And the other thing that I’d like to mention is that Hurricane Florence hit this state badly, and you were here for that, but —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
GOVERNOR COOPER: — less than a year ago. And we have a number of people who were — are not in their homes yet that were affected by Dorian. So any help that you can give us with HUD publishing the Federal Register for the CDBG-DR money for Hurricane Florence —
THE PRESIDENT: Right. We will do that.
GOVERNOR COOPER: — we would appreciate. We’ve had a good relationship with Secretary Carson, but there’s a couple of things that would be helpful, I think, long term with CDBG-DR money, which would, one, be a universal application for all disaster survivors that would work with FEMA, would work with SBA, that would work with HUD. I think that would slim things down and make it a lot easier.
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll look into that.
GOVERNOR COOPER: And also, maybe codifying the CDBG-DR money instead of the Federal Register. And I know there’s legislation in both the House and the Senate for that.
I have with me my Secretary of Public Safety Erik Hooks, who is behind you there. We’re grateful for his work and our local partners we have here too, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. We’ll you’ve done a great job. Thank you very much, Roy.
GOVERNOR COOPER: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Erik, would you like to say something?
MR. HOOKS: Yes, sir, Mr. President. From my aspect, I’d like to emphasize the partnerships that we have all throughout the Department of Homeland of Security, the Coast Guard, FEMA. They’re always at the table. And they’re at the table when things are relatively peaceful.
So when a tragedy in our all-hazards approach hits us, we’re ready and we’re partnered, and those relationships are strong.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
GOVERNOR COOPER: Mr. President, if I could add one more thing. The Admiral is here and we were in communication throughout the storm. But the Coast Guard did amazing work, both during Florence and during Dorian. They helped us rescue a man from Ocracoke Island and helped to bring him off, and worked closely with our National Guard. We’re grateful for our Coast Guard and our relationship with them.
THE PRESIDENT: They’ve been so incredible. I’ve always said, for the last three or four years, there’s no brand that has gone up more than the United States Coast Guard. In Texas, they saved thousands and thousands of lives. They’ve done a job like I’ve never seen. Then you went to Florida. Then you went to Puerto Rico. Then you went back here. And the job you’ve done in the Bahamas has been incredible. So please extend my wishes to everybody, Admiral.
Would you like to say something?
ADMIRAL SMITH: No — Mr. President and Governor Cooper, I just — the Coast Guard was just glad to be part of the team. We have a great relationship with the state, with our federal partners, local partners, and we were happy to be part of the team.
As you know, as this storm came up, we flowed in resources —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
ADMIRAL SMITH: — and were ready to respond. And then the focus was providing response when needed, and then opening the ports as quickly as possible. We did that, and I think it went about as well could be expected, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: You’ve done a fantastic job. How are the new Coast Guard cutters?
ADMIRAL SMITH: They’re doing great, sir. We had to flow them out of the region, but we flowed them back in. And they were the first to get offshore to provide response.
THE PRESIDENT: But they’re great. They’re both great.
ADMIRAL SMITH: They’re outstanding. Yes, sir. They’re outstanding.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s what you needed, right?
ADMIRAL SMITH: Absolutely, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: We got them. We got them. They were getting very old. Now you have brand new beauties, right?
ADMIRAL SMITH: Yes, sir, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s very good.
ADMIRAL SMITH: We’re in good shape, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Kevin, would you guys like to say something?
ACTING SECRETARY MCALEENAN: Absolutely. Thank you, Mr. President. As you know, we’re here in support of our state partners. And Governor Cooper and his team, Commissioner Hook, have been outstanding throughout the effort.
I’d like Administrator — Acting Administrator Pete Gaynor to give you a little bit of sense of the preparations that we had in place in the initial response, and, of course, we’re doing the joint naval assessments now.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Pete?
ACTING ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR: Yes, sir. As soon as we realized that Dorian bypassed U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and was not going to touch land again, (inaudible) and the NRCC, the National Response Coordination Center, which you visited the other day, was big storm, big response. And we had staff, material, equipment from Miami to Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, making sure that we could provide all the governors, to include Governor Cooper, whatever they needed from not only FEMA but from the federal family.
And, again, it takes partnerships to make it all happen. And when it works well, it’s a great thing to see. So I thank everyone here that is part of the federal team.
THE PRESIDENT: And I have to say, Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp and — Henry has been fantastic in South Carolina. Henry McMaster and yourself. The governors have really done a fantastic job. They’ve worked. Whether it’s Republican, Democrat, doesn’t matter. In this case, we’re talking about one that’s on the other side, and the relationship was perfect, right? We have a really good relationship.
And we’re working to get it all together. I want to say that FEMA, first responders, law enforcement has been incredible. Really on the ball. And they were ready in Puerto Rico. Everybody thought it was going to hit Puerto Rico, and we were all set. And, fortunately, it missed Puerto Rico. What it did to the Bahamas is incredible. And the government of the Bahamas has asked us to help. And we have a lot of assets over there, right now, trying to help. That’s really a life-saving mission, when you get right down to it. But the Coast Guard and FEMA and all of you have done a fantastic job.
Would you like to say anything in front of the camera?
ACTING SECRETARY MCALEENAN: No, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Lindsey Graham, please?
SENATOR GRAHAM: Well, I want to thank you for calling Henry. To my friends in North Carolina, I used to be a reservist at Seymour Johnson. You all have been hit really hard. And, unfortunately, our delegations in South Carolina and North Carolina are getting pretty good at turning the funds around. And Kevin and Nancy work well together.
So we got to fund the government entirely by the end of the month. But I promise you, we’ll do everything we can to get the money flowing. And being your neighbor, I’m really sorry. I know it’s been really hard up here.
So, thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thanks. You’ve done a great job. Thank you, Lindsey, very much.
And, Leader, what do you think? You’re working, I know, with the Democrats, and we’re getting things approved rapidly. How’s it going?
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER MCCARTHY: Yeah. I think it’s working well. The only thing, I do want to credit and thank all of you for how well everybody has worked together. The coordination, knowing how this storm would change course, the modeling continuing to go, and just the preparation. I know you saved a lot of lives by the preparation you do.
Our responsibility, Lindsey and others, is making sure the resources are there. And there was — as we talked to FEMA ahead of time, there was enough money. And if there’s more needed, we’ll continue to work towards it.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Kevin. And, Admiral, thank you for keeping me in touch. He was with me all the way. No matter where I went, the Admiral was right there. And you let us know. And we were able to do a lot of good by being there. So, thank you.
Would you have anything to say, Admiral?
ADMIRAL SCHULTZ: Just, with regard to the Bahamas — because much of the attention has shifted there now, Mr. President — USAID, the Agency for International Development, their Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, has been the coordinating lead working directly with the government of the Bahamas, responding to their request for the most acute humanitarian needs of the Bahamian people.
And as you’ve talked about, it’s a very concentrated area of the Bahamas that was affected. The rest of the Bahamas, almost the size of the state of California, is unaffected and open for business. So, Bahamians are helping Bahamians, evacuating people to other sections of the Bahamas that have not been affected. And not only the United States, but foreign governments and non-governmental organizations are all also there in force, providing the humanitarian aid that’s needed.
THE PRESIDENT: So, people are unaware of the fact, for the most part, that the Bahamas is a much bigger place than people would understand, than most people would understand. So you’re actually moving large numbers of people into safer areas and areas that weren’t affected in the Bahamas by the hurricane.
ADMIRAL SCHULTZ: Right, sir. The government of the Bahamas is actually doing that, assisted by others, moving people from the most affected islands, generally the Abaco island which was really damaged —
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
ADMIRAL SCHULTZ: — toward Nassau, which is an area of the Bahamas that was relatively undamaged that has the resources to help those folks out.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. They’ve really done a great job. Thank you very much.
So, we have now people standing on line, trying to get into the arena. And I will tell you that they are soaking wet, because Roy and everybody just walked under the plane, and you folks were wet. It is bad weather out there. But we have a tremendous crowd, and we’re going to be there in a little while. We’re going over a little bit earlier than anticipated.
So, I hope you’re going to be able to join us, and we’ll have some fun. It’s going to be a good rally.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Mr. President, I forgot to mention one thing. The budget agreement that you helped negotiate with the House and the Senate — no agreement is perfect, but if we had not done the budget deal, we’d go back into sequestration. You would not be having new ships.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s true.
SENATOR GRAHAM: The biggest winners were the DHS and the military as a whole. So in times like this, I appreciate what you did on the budget because sequestration would have been devastating.
THE PRESIDENT: And I think it’s really important to say, Mexico has passed it, Canada has passed it. The USMCA is vital for our country, the economics of our country. You have two countries that have gone through the process fully. And we’re waiting for an approval from the House. I think the Senate will approve it rapidly. So we hope they can get that moving. It’s a great thing for us.
The farmers — even the unions are really liking it a lot. And we’re going to make certain little changes. But Bob Lighthizer is dealing with Nancy Pelosi. I think they’re getting along very well. Steve Mnuchin is involved. And hopefully they can get a vote on that very quickly — the USMCA. Very important. Thank you.
Okay. Thank you, folks. Thank you all very much. Thank you.