9:00 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mike Pence on the line from the White House.
Q You’re talking to Michael Berry and Shara Fryer and the good people of Texas. Welcome.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Michael and Shara, thank you for having me on. Let me say on behalf of the President and our entire administration, our hearts are all in Houston today. And our prayers and the concerted effort of our national government and local and state officials are continuing to lean forward into a rescue operation, and our prayers also are with you all.
Q Well, Vice President Pence, I know you you’ve been a governor for the last four years before being the Vice President. You understand the importance of those federal assets — the federal declarations, the FEMA assistance. What can we expect in the coming days?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, as you know, Mike, the President made his decision on Friday night, before landfall, to issue an emergency declaration with regard to Texas. In fact, this morning the President also issued an emergency declaration with regard to Louisiana as we continue to see the impact of this storm.
And let me just say, from those early hours, President Trump and our entire administration have been working closely with Governor Abbott and with officials at every level to bring the full resources of the federal government to bear.
As we speak, I hope it is encouragement to your listeners to know that there are more than 8,000 federal officials in the area. We’ve already shipped more than 1.2 million meals, a million liters of water, and we continue to support some 65 mobile emergency resource support personnel and 10 mobile communications offices to get people as quickly as possible out of harm’s way. But I just can’t —
Q It’s a big task.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s extraordinary, and I have to tell you, Shara, it is moving to hear the reports over the course of the weekend. The President assembled the Cabinet twice. We received continuous reports about the challenges, not just the devastation of the storm as it came ashore, but obviously the rising flood waters.
And right now, as you all know, we’re focused on a rescue operation. And we just encourage all of your listeners, as so many others have, to listen to local emergency management officials. If they find themselves in an immediate need of medical attention or evacuation assistance, to call 911. They also can call one of several numbers of the Houston command center of the United States Coast Guard. One of those numbers is 281-464-4851. All the numbers are available at FEMA.gov if people are able to get online.
But as you all know, the focus today is on making sure that we’re doing everything to get people out of harm’s way, and that includes an enormous volunteer effort.
Q Mr. Vice President, you know your FEMA director — they’ve been holding news conferences — and they’ve already said that they expect that they’re going to have to be in this region for years.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we truly believe —
Q Is there that type of commitment behind that? Can we count on that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think what you’re going to see is that the national government, and we anticipate the Congress, are going to make the resources available to see Texas through the rescue operation, through the recovery. But’s there simply no question, when you look from afar, Shara — when you look at the magnitude of the flooding that’s taken place in the 4th largest city in the United States, that we anticipate that it will be years coming back.
But Houston and Texas are strong. The people are resilient. You see that in the extraordinary outpouring of volunteer efforts — people reaching out, making boats available, and volunteering, the number of people that have already gone online to Redcross.org or to other organizations to begin to provide resources.
We know we’ll be there to rebuild, and the American people are with you.
Q Vice President Mike Pence, we appreciate you being with us. The President has said that he did not want to be a distraction, but he does want to be here. And I think the consensus is people would like him to come and see what is happening. We’ve heard that that visit will be tomorrow. Do you have any more details on that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mike, those details will be forthcoming, but I can tell you that from Friday night forward, the President has been continuously engaged in this. And we’ve all been deeply concerned about the impact of this storm. We’re saddened by the loss of life, and the President is anxious to come to the region tomorrow. The President and the First Lady will be there, along with a number of other Cabinet officials.
But it’s really — again, we understand, as the President has said, we are at the beginning of this effort. The focus now completely is on lifesaving efforts. We just encourage people within the sound of our voice that if you are in a place that is warm and dry and you have provisions, to just continue to shelter-in-place, unless local officials tell you to do otherwise.
And just know that we’ll get through this. The President will be there tomorrow. But again, we will not relent in our effort to see the rescue operations done thoroughly, working with local emergency managers and officials. And then the recovery effort will be long term, and we’ll be there. We’re with you.
Q Vice President Pence, I don’t have to tell you what assets you have in the Cabinet, but there’s one fellow sitting at that table who’s the Secretary of Energy who did a great job for well over a decade with just these sorts of emergencies. I hope he’s part of the team.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I’ll tell you, our Secretary — your former governor — Rick Perry has been intimately involved in all of these efforts in the Cabinet meetings, not only in his new role with regard to energy, which has such an enormously important role in that region, but just bringing his practical experience and his deep love and admiration for the people of Texas.
I would just say to anyone that is within the sound of our voice, again, listen to local emergency officials. And if you can be helpful, we just encourage you to go to NVOAD.org to find national organizations active in the disaster, or go online with Redcross.org. There will be an awful lot of needs; the federal government, the state government will be there. But I know people who are not affected by this, who are anxious to help their neighbors and friends, are doing that as we speak.
And, frankly, Texas is inspiring the nation with the outpouring of support and concern for your neighbors, and the courage of the first responders that we’re seeing hour by hour.
Q Well, we appreciate that very much, as well as we appreciate the people from other states who have come in and offered their aid as well. And certainly, we appreciate what the federal government is doing for us and the quick response — because, indeed, they’re here and they’re already working. And one thing that really, I think, impresses all of us in Texas is the fact that they keeping saying, “Look, we’re here — we’re here in a support role. We’re not here to come in and tell you what to do. We’re here in a support role. Please pay attention to your local officials.” And that’s very much appreciated, Mr. Vice President.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Shara, you’re exactly right. You know, before I was the Vice President, I was a governor. In these situations, the state governments and local officials take the lead, and the federal government is there to provide the support.
But President Trump wanted FEMA on the ground from go. That’s why he signed the emergency declaration even before landfall. And we’re there now. As I mentioned, more than 8,000 federal officials will continue to provide the supporting role.
But we know that Texas is strong. The people of Texas are resilient and generous. And I have to tell you that to watch and to witness the response by the state of Texas, by your local first responders, and by the countless volunteers that are coming alongside neighbors and friends — it is inspiring the nation. And we’re going to continue to provide the federal response that the American people expect to see in this moment.
And President Trump is continuing to marshal the full resources of the government through rescue. And we’ll be there through recovery, Mike and Shara. We’ll see Houston all the way back, and the whole region, back to security and to prosperity.
Q Vice President Mike Pence, the good people of Texas thank you. Appreciate your time.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You bet. God bless you all.
9:11 A.M. EDT