‘What a crowd’

The day before the hurricane slammed ashore in Texas, Donald Trump boasted on Twitter on how he adapts his speaking tone to match the occasion. Finding his voice for Harvey’s mass devastation looks to be a work in progress.

“What a crowd. What a turnout,” he told supporters outside a Corpus Christi fire station as he assumed the role of cheerleader-in-chief. “We’re here to take care of you, it’s going well,” he said.

Inside, at a briefing of federal and state officials, Gov. Greg Abbott heaped praise on Trump and his team: “They all had one thing to say: ‘Texas, what do you need?’ ”

Trump stopped short of a victory lap. “We won’t say congratulations ... We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished,” he said. He also remarked that FEMA chief Brock Long has “become very famous on television.”

Absent were words of empathy for the victims. But Abbott said Trump showed “genuine compassion” watching videos of the disaster as they flew to Austin and “was heartbroken by what he saw.”

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See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

Wall a hurdle for Harvey aid?

Trump’s vow of getting Harvey relief aid through Congress quickly could face a complication — his threat to shut down the government if he doesn’t get funding for a wall on the Mexican border.

Republican leaders are talking about tying a disaster aid bill to a larger measure funding the government and raising the nation’s borrowing limit, The Hill reports. But Trump wants the main spending bill to include his wall money, which would risk a Democratic filibuster that GOP leaders want to avoid.

The take-away: Too soon

So how effective is the federal response to Harvey? Don’t ask. Seriously, don’t. It’s way too early to know.

The record-obliterating rains aren’t over. The floods are still raging. Many things are still in motion — rescues, emergency shelter operations, power generation to critical facilities, insurance processes. The job of the responders and the president, has only begun.

See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

Taxing task

Trump is due in Missouri on Wednesday to speak in Missouri on his tax plans. With Congress not in session, he is expected to give more shape to what have been broadly sketched proposals so far. This is expected to be the first in a series of such presentations. 

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Donald Jr. testimony set

The Senate Judiciary Committee has reached an agreement and set a date (not yet disclosed) for Donald Trump Jr. to testify behind closed doors, Politico reports.

The panel wants to question the president’s eldest son about his June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer who he was told had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller is examining whether the president sought to conceal the purpose of the meeting, according to NBC News. Trump reportedly changed his son’s initial statement to portray the subject of the meeting as U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

Getting no respect

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A lull in North Korean missile tests last week prompted Trump to muse of Kim Jong Un, “I believe he is starting to respect us.”

So much for that after Kim launched an intermediate-range missile that flew over northern Japan.

“All options are on the table,” said a Trump statement Tuesday. See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.

Right away, sir? Nope

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis seems to be in no hurry to implement Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, Reuters reported.

Mattis said current policy would remain in place until he sets up a panel of experts to provide recommendations.

What else is happening:

  • Most Republicans back Trump, but not without misgivings, according to a Pew Research poll. Only 34% of GOP and GOP-leaning voters “like” his conduct, while 46% have “mixed feelings” and 19% don’t like it. A majority say he should listen more to Republicans with experience in government.
  • Defending his pardon of Joe Arpaio, Trump said the Phoenix-area sheriff was unfairly targeted by the Obama administration. In reality, PolitiFact notes, the main mover of the case against him was a federal judge named by George W. Bush.
  • Former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer finally got to meet Pope Francis. A devout Catholic, Spicer had been looking forward to meeting the pope when Trump visited the Vatican in May. But the president left him off the list for the audience — a move critics called a petty cruelty.
  • Kellyanne Conway, speaking to evangelist Pat Robertson on TV’s “The 700 Club,” said Trump’s most defining characteristic is “humility.”
  • Trump angrily removed longtime advance man George Gigicos from the job of organizing his rallies because he was upset over seeing empty seats when the news media arrived for last week’s Phoenix event, Bloomberg News reported. The venue filled up before Trump spoke.
  • Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto looked surprised when Trump told a joint news conference Monday that his country was purchasing “large amounts of our great F-18 aircraft from Boeing.” On Tuesday, Niinisto said there was no deal and Finland had just begun shopping for new warplanes.