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Before Big Convention Speech, Trump Visits FEMA For Storm Briefing

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence listen during a Hurricane Laura briefing at FEMA headquarters in Washington.
Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence listen during a Hurricane Laura briefing at FEMA headquarters in Washington.

Hours before the final night of the Republican National Convention, President Trump visited FEMA headquarters in Washington for a briefing on Tropical Storm Laura.

Trump sat with Vice President Mike Pence at the front of a long conference table in FEMA's National Response Coordination Center as officials detailed the federal response to the storm and showed pictures of the damage. Laura made landfall over Louisiana as a Category 4 storm, but has been downgraded to a tropical storm as it moves across the South.

"This team forward deployed resources," Pence said. "We were ready for the worst, and by all accounts from the experts, while this was obviously a major storm with devastating impact, it was not as bad as it could have been."

Trump said the campaign briefly considered postponing his convention speech until Monday so he could travel to Texas, Louisiana and possibly Arkansas to survey hurricane damage, but he said the campaign ultimately decided to continue with the speech as planned. The president said he will visit Texas and Louisiana over the weekend.

"We got a little bit lucky," Trump said. "It was very big, it was very powerful, but it passed quickly, so everything's on schedule."

Earlier, the president issued an emergency declaration for Arkansas in response to the storm, authorizing federal assistance and FEMA coordination of disaster relief. He previously issued similar declarations for Louisiana and Texas.

With all eyes on Trump ahead of his acceptance speech tonight, the president's appearance at FEMA offered an opportunity to present the image of the nation's top executive presiding over a natural disaster.

Throughout the week, Trump has leaned on his official duties to boost his reelection campaign. During Tuesday night's programming, Trump granted a presidential pardon and later looked on as his homeland security secretary conducted a naturalization ceremony for the cameras.

This morning, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told reporters the president will address Laura in his convention speech tonight and "ask for God's blessing for people in its path."

The overlap of hurricane and convention season has scrambled convention plans before.

In 2012, Tropical Storm Isaac, which eventually developed into a hurricane before it made landfall in Louisiana, delayed the Republican convention in Tampa. And when Hurricane Gustav made landfall in Louisiana in 2008, most of the Republican convention's first night was called off.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.
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