President Trump said Tuesday he wants the government’s response to Hurricane Harvey to be “better than ever before” after landing in Texas to observe the damage and get briefed on the flooding devastating the state.
Trump was briefed on relief efforts at a Corpus Christi fire station, alongside Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and FEMA administrator Brock Long.
“We want to do it better than ever before,” Trump said of the recovery. “We want to be looked at in five years or ten years from now as this is the way to do it.”
Speaking of the storm, the president said: “This was of epic proportion. Nobody has ever seen anything like this.”
The president, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, arrived at Corpus Christi International Airport shortly before noon local time. He was greeted upon arrival by Abbott.
“We want him to see and understand the enormous challenges that Texans have faced and the need for the aid that he’s providing,” Abbott told reporters as the president’s plane landed.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One during the flight, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the intention of Tuesday’s trip is to “lay the foundation for what we know will be a long recovery effort.”
Corpus Christi is more than three hours away from Houston, where parts of the city are still under water, but Sanders said the president is keeping his distance from the devastation at this time so he doesn’t interrupt local recovery efforts.
“The president wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn’t disrupt the recovery efforts that are still ongoing,” she said.
Later Tuesday, the president is scheduled to travel to Austin, where he will tour an emergency operations center and meet with state officials. The Trumps are scheduled to return to Washington on Tuesday evening.
A number of Cabinet members joined the president for the trip, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon.
Sanders said the Cabinet officials will be meeting separately with their counterparts in state government during the visit.
The president is also expected to be joined by Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn for much of the day.
The president is expected to return to Texas this weekend, Sanders said.
During a press conference at the White House on Monday, the president promised “very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president” on approving disaster funding for Texas.
“We expect to have requests on our desk fairly soon, and we think that Congress will feel very much the way I feel,” Trump said. “In a very bipartisan way. That will be nice. But we think you’re going to have what you need and it’s going to go fast.”
Trump dismissed the notion that emergency funding for Texas could complicate efforts as a spending bill is negotiated with Congress.
“I think it has nothing to do with it, really,” he said. “I think this is separate.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign committee on Tuesday asked Americans to donate to relief funds, including the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the United Way, the SPCA and the Humane Society.
“This is a time to come together as a nation to support those in need in the wake of this disaster and the unprecedented flooding they are experiencing in the greater Houston and coastal Texas region,” Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and a senior advisor to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., said in a news release.
Vice President Mike Pence said during an interview on a Corpus Christi radio program Tuesday that he also plans to take a trip to Texas this week.
“My wife and I will be in southeast Texas later this week, and we’re going to continue to provide all of the resources necessary to advance the efforts to rescue people that are enduring this storm,” he said.
Fox News’ Jenny Bucholz contributed to this report.