President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump flew to Houston on Saturday morning for their second trip to Texas since Hurricane Harvey ravaged the state.
Their first stop was the NRG Stadium in Houston, where thousands are evacuating after being forced out of their homes by the devastating floods brought by Harvey earlier in the week.
Together they gave out Red Cross meal boxes, shook hands and took selfies with some of the thousands who are being forced to take shelter.
President Trump was jovial and upbeat, kissing the heads of babies and holding hands with little boys who strode up to him for a hug. Before taking their places to give out food, the notoriously germaphobic president proclaimed ‘my hands are too big’ as he struggled his fingers in to a pair of latex gloves.
Melania, who received criticism for the glamorous outfit she chose to travel to Texas in earlier in the week, was defiant with her wardrobe choices on Saturday.
She first emerged from the White House in a $1590 Ralph Lauren dress and $650 pair of Manolo Blahnik heels before changing on board Air Force One into a denim shirt, jeans and sneakers.
After spending time with evacuees at the stadium, the pair went on to a church in Pearland where Trump heaped praise on Texas governor Greg Abbott and congratulated him on doing a ‘terrific job’ since Harvey hit.
‘The water is disappearing, we have a long way to go, but the water is disappearing. Yesterday we had water and today it’s all swept up and cleared up. That’s a lot of hard working people, I’ll tell you that.
‘You have a great governor and a great first lady of Texas. Special people,’ he said, gesturing towards Abbott and his wife Cecilia.
‘They have worked so hard and the coordination between the federal, state and local governments has been terrific. We’re going to keep it going.’
He strayed from the topic briefly to congratulate Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on a ‘full page story’ in the Wall Street Journal and heaped praise on Ben Carson for his work with Veteran Affairs.
Before leaving the church, he said the clear-up from Harvey may take ‘two or three years’.
‘They say two years, three years. Because this is Texas you’ll probably do it in six months,’ he said, winning roaring applause from the congregation.
‘I think for a lot of places maybe it never gets done. I think in your case it’ll get done very quickly,’ he went on, adding that it was ‘a real honor’ to be with them.
He was joined on stage by Senator Ted Cruz, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Governor Greg Abbott and his wife Cecilia, and a handful of others.
After his speech, the president and first lady went outside to load waiting cars and vans with cases of bottled water. Trump, 71, was hands on, lugging the heavy cases from the ground to the lined-up vehicles.
The pair left the White House at 9.20am to make their way to Joint Air Base Andrews where they boarded Air Force One shortly afterwards.
Melania, heeding none of the criticism she received earlier in the week for wearing towering stilettos for the journey, stuck with sky scraper heels again.
She paired her snakeskin pumps with a khaki dress and wore her signature pair of sunglasses. An aide toted two Louis Vuitton bags carrying a change of outfit for her.
After touching down at Eliot Field in Houston, she emerged in a denim shirt, jeans and a pair of sneakers, adding a hat with the word ‘Texas’ stitched on the front.
President Trump was dressed in a more weather appropriate outfit of a rain coat, shirt and dark trousers. He carried an umbrella for the pair as they made their way across the South Lawn to board Marine One.
Immediately after arriving in Texas, the pair went to the NRG Stadium where thousands are sheltering to give out food.
Trump was warm and jovial, kissing babies and chatting to young children who have been forced to recuperate at the stadium with their families after having their homes wiped away by the storm.
They dished out lunch boxes containing hot dogs, potato chips and apples to lines of hungry evacuees and posed for selfies with fans before leaving the stadium to move on to Louisiana.
Before making his exit, Trump told gathered reporters that the people he spoke with were ‘very happy’ and said that though the hurricane itself was ‘tough’, the unified response of the country was ‘wonderful’.
He made brief reference to his request for an additional $7.9 billion to give the victims of the hurricane.
‘We’re signing a lot of documents now to get money into Houston. We signed it and now it’s going through a very quick, hopefully quick process,’ he said.
It is his second visit to Texas where at least 44 are dead and 32,000 are in evacuation shelters as a result of Harvey which has been heralded as the worst natural disaster to have ever hit the US.
Floods have destroyed entire neighborhoods in Houston and Beaumont and Port Arthur in south east Texas.
There are areas of Louisiana which have also been affected. Local authorities are working round-the-clock to rescue anyone still stranded and recover the bodies of those who were unable to escape.
During their brief visit to Houston, the Trumps also met with members of the Texas delegation before making their way to Louisiana at around lunchtime.
There, they will take part in a meet and greet with members of the Cajun Navy, a civilian organization comprised of volunteers with boats who have saved thousands since Harvey hit last week.
The couple will fly back to Washington DC afterwards and will arrive back at the White House at 9pm.
On Tuesday, Trump faced criticism for their upbeat visit to the state where he addressed a crowd of supporters in Corpus Christi and met with Governor Greg Abbott but did not visit one of the evacuation shelters in place.
He steered clear of Houston, where the hurricane was ongoing at the time, and instead went to Corpus Christi.
The president was optimistic with his public message as the worst of the storm hit. He marveled at the size of it but assured Texans the ‘good news’ was there was ‘talent’ on the ground who would be equipped to cope with the catastrophe.
Since then, the reality of the hurricane’s devastation has set in. There has been sharp criticism of the federal response to it from experts who were involved in handling the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and some fear not enough will be done to repair the damage caused.
The president has donated $1million of his own money to relief funds and the government is asking for $7.9 billion in emergency aid for those impacted.
Trump asked for the increase on Friday to replenish the dwindling FEMA fund which had an existing $7 billion. The additional $7.9 billion is likely to be swiftly approved by Congress this week.
Republicans are planning to use it as an example of why the federal borrowing limit should be increased. Democrats do not want to see the $19.9 trillion debt limit go up and say that Harvey relief money should be dealt with separately.
More than 430,000 homes have already registered for FEMA aid since Harvey hit. On Friday, Trump declared a national day of prayer to take place on Sunday in honor of the hurricane’s victims.
The estimated cost of the damage will be in excess of $110 billion. Experts earlier said it could reach $160 billion.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Jennifer Smith