WASHINGTON — Residents caught in Harvey’s destructive path can expect “every asset at my command” and emergency aid from Congress, President Donald Trump promised Monday ahead of his visit Tuesday to storm-battered sections of Texas.
Trump said his threat to shut down the government if he doesn’t receive his requested border wall funds won’t affect whether Harvey-devastated states get federal relief.
“I think that you’re going to see very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president,” Trump said at a White House news conference.
“We think you’re going to have what you need and it’s going to go fast,” he added. “Texas is a unique place. It’s a great, great state, great people. And I think you’ll be up and running very, very quickly.”
The president and First Lady Melania Trump are scheduled Tuesday to tour the affected area in Texas, and Trump said he may return Saturday to the state, while also visiting Louisiana, which was being pummeled by torrential rain.
As he did in weekend tweets, Trump marveled at the storm’s magnitude — his first test as president by a natural disaster.
“It’s the biggest ever. They’re saying it’s the biggest ever. It’s historic,” he said in the Oval Office remarks. “It’s like Texas. It’s really like Texas, if you think about it.”
He commended how those in the Lone Star State have persevered and how residents are helping each other.
Trump was asked later at the news conference if Harvey’s catastrophic reach made him rethink his threat to close the government should lawmakers not fulfill his request for funding for portions of the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
He called them them “separate” matters and did not back off of the possibility of forcing a shutdown.
“I hope that’s not necessary,” he said. “If it’s necessary, we’ll have to see.”
Trump had said Aug. 22 in Phoenix: “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”
The president said he still believes Mexico will pick up the bill for the barrier’s construction — an arrangement he had promised on the campaign trail.
“It may be through reimbursement, but one way or the other, Mexico will pay for the wall,” he told reporters Monday, lamenting the terms of NAFTA as more beneficial to Mexico. “We may fund it through the United States. But ultimately, Mexico will pay for the wall.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico said Sunday that the government “has always stated our country will not pay, under any circumstances.”
Separately Monday, Trump would not single out Russia as a threat to U.S. security.
“Well, I consider many countries as a security threat, unfortunately, when you look at what’s going on in the world today,” he said when asked specifically about Russia.
Trump, who was hosting Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the White House, said: “I think Finland is doing fine with Russia, and I hope that the United States will someday be able to have a very good relationship with Russia also. I think that’s very good for world peace and for other things.”
Though the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election and congressional and FBI probes are underway into the conduct, Trump has said he believes Russia to be among many countries that pose a cyber-threat to the United States.