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Trump shocked and awed by Harvey’s devastating hit on Texas

President Donald Trump, working from the Camp David

President Donald Trump, working from the Camp David retreat in Maryland, holds a videoconference briefing with Cabinet officials to discuss the federal response to Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. Credit: The White House

A rain of terror

Watching Tropical Storm Harvey’s frightening rampage through east Texas from the presidential retreat at Camp David Sunday morning, President Donald Trump sought to build confidence that his administration was on top of it.

“Great coordination between agencies at all levels of government. Continuing rains and flash floods are being dealt with. Thousands rescued,” said his first tweet.

There was a nod to the enormity of the task: “Wow - Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood!” Also: “Even experts have said they’ve never seen one like this!”

But be reassured, he said, that “We have an all out effort going, and going well!” On a conference call with Cabinet and disaster-response officials, he stressed the “No. 1 priority of saving lives,” a White House statement said.

Trump is planning to visit Texas Tuesday. It likely will be too soon to measure the full cost of the disaster in lives and property, and the success of the federal response. Worse, the storm may still be raging in the Houston area.

What else there was to say

Besides Harvey, Trump had a lot else on his mind that he felt compelled to share with his Twitter followers Sunday morning, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.

He insisted he hasn’t given up on making Mexico pay for his border wall, even as he’s now asking Congress for the money. “Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other,” he said.

He tweeted that along with the trip to Texas, he will visit “a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in ’16” and predicted a defeat for its Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill.

He plugged a book by a supporter, far-right Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

The take-away: Twitter happy

Trump has boasted about his unpredictability. But the surprises over his Twitter habits have gotten fewer.

Newsday’s Dan Janison describes some of the patterns: There are defensive counterattacks and self-celebration. There is praise for those who have supported or benefitted him. More and more, financial markets and even officials in his own government shrug them off.

Report: Trump sought Moscow tower

For months after Trump began his campaign in mid-2015, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, The Washington Post reported Sunday night.

An intermediary in the deal was Russian-born Port Washington businessman Felix Sater, according to the report, which was based on people familiar with the proposal and records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers that are due to be turned over to congressional investigators.

While negotiations were going on, Trump was offering praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Sater said he could get Putin to say “great things” about Trump. The deal fell through in January 2016 because investors lacked the necessary land and permits.

Tillerson: Trump values not mine

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson became the second senior administration official to put clear distance between himself and Trump’s response to violence at the Aug. 12 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson described the State Department’s commitment to “America’s values,” including freedom and “equal treatment of people.” When asked about Trump’s values, Tillerson said “the president speaks for himself.”

Host Chris Wallace then asked whether Tillerson was “separating himself” from Trump’s remarks. Answer: “I’ve made my own comment as to our values.” (Video link here.)

Last week, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn denounced Trump over Charlottesville. See David M. Schwartz’s story for Newsday.

Arpaio couldn’t lose

Trump wanted the Justice Department to drop its case against his friend and supporter Joe Arpaio, a county sheriff in Arizona, before it went to trial, The Washington Post and New York Times reported.

He backed off when both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House counsel Donald McGahn said it wouldn’t be appropriate. But Trump also was assured that he could use his pardon powers later if Arpaio was convicted.

He did on Friday, sparing the former Phoenix-area official punishment for defying a federal court order to stop using racial profiling tactics as a self-appointed immigration law enforcer. Trump bypassed the normal Justice Department procedures for vetting pardons.

Satan’s timeshare salesman

After Sen. John McCain tweeted that the president’s pardon of Arpaio “undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law,” longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone responded in not-very-kind.

“Karma about to get you, @SenJohnMcCain and you will burn in hell for all eternity,” Stone tweeted at McCain, who is battling brain cancer.

The tweet echoed one Stone sent after the death in January of Village Voice investigation journalist Wayne Barrett, who had written about Trump and Stone. “Rot in hell” was the nicest part of that tweet.

What else is happening:

  • Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has a stock answer — used 10 times in recent briefing — for sticky questions. “I’ll get back to you on that.” She rarely does, The Washington Post reports.
  • Sebastian Gorka, booted Friday as a White House aide, is following ousted chief of staff Steve Bannon back to Breitbart News. Gorka has already gone public with his attacks on Trump’s national security team.
  • The Trump Organization pursued a deal for a huge Trump complex in Moscow during the presidential run -- and Long Islander Felix Sater was part of a relevant e-mail chain on the topic, according to the Washington Post.
  • When the White House imposed new sanctions on Venezuela, it exempted the country’s state-owned Citgo oil giant. The Daily Beast reports Citgo hired a lobbying firm co-founded by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and donated six-figure sums for the inauguration.
  • Pro-Trump demonstrators came under attack from anti-fascists and anarchists in Berkeley, California, with 13 arrested on various charges included assault with a deadly weapon.
  • Walid Phares, a former Trump campaign adviser who supported his travel ban, is working as a for-hire court witness on behalf of Iraqi Christians facing deportation, Politico reports. He charges $15,000 and up for in-person testimony.
  • The Trump administration will lift a ban on the transfer of some surplus military equipment to police departments, USA Today reports. The Obama administration imposed the ban in reaction to the handling of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
  • Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family real estate company is a big landlord in Maryland, and it’s also the most aggressive there in getting judges to order the arrest of people who owe the company money, The Baltimore Sun reports.

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