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Via Telephone

12:22 P.M. EDT

Q    Vice President Pence is here.  And welcome, sir, once again back to the EIB Network.  Happy to have you here.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Rush.  Great to be back on.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the extraordinary events taking place in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  I know that millions of your listeners are supporting the families and communities that are affected with prayers and supporting organizations who are coming alongside.  But I appreciate the opportunity to talk about the efforts of the federal, state, and local governments to provide resources and support for rescue and recovery.

Q    How is it all going?  How would you assess — I know you’re biased, but how would you assess the effort so far?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I would tell you, I just walked out of FEMA; President Trump directed me to head over there for a quick update.  And I think it is important that all of your listens know that this is still a very dangerous storm.  Particularly people in the affected areas, in Texas and Louisiana, need to approach this with great caution.  Listen to local emergency management officials.  Heed their warnings and their direction.

But I think the American people can be very proud of the effort that Governor Abbott of Texas and local first responders are making.  And I’m very proud of the strong leadership President Trump has provided for our entire administration.  We have more than 8,500 federal employees on the ground.  We have dozens of Coast Guard assets in the air — fixed-wing, helicopter.  The Coast Guard is involved in rescue operations.  And frankly, you know, the volunteer effort that is also underway, where people are heading out, looking after vulnerable neighbors and friends who are stranded in the midst of this historic flood — it reminds us of everything that’s great about being an American.

But, look, it’s early in this process.  We’re 100 percent focused on lifesaving efforts right now.  But the President and the First Lady will be there tomorrow.  We already have our FEMA Director, Brock Long, on the ground in Texas today.  But once the flood waters subside, then the real work of recovery will begin in earnest, and we’re going to be making sure upwards to a half-a -million Americans that may be eligible for disaster assistance know that we are with them, we’ll support them.  And we’ll see Houston and southeast Texas all the way through this crisis.

Q    You mentioned something here that I have observed myself, and that is that — it’s a sad thing, Mr. Vice President, but so much in our life has become politicized.  But this incident, it has its political elements if you go to the wrong places in the media, but people that are on the ground there don’t seem to be involved in that at all.  There is a great display of self-reliance.  There is a great display of neighbor helping neighbor; Americans setting aside, whatever it is that divides them — and it may not be that much anyway — and all banding together to help.

It seems like a unified effort here.  You have a number of celebrities that are running charitable donation efforts here.  It seems like a lot of things came together immediately when this storm hit; even some of the things got set up before the storm hit.  And it seems like it’s being met as well as it could be.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re leaning into this effort, but I don’t think you could have said it better than you just said it.  These moments bring out the character of our nation.  We’re seeing the generosity, the compassion, the courage of the American people in high relief, whether it be the first responders who — you know, the Coast Guard is in the air — was in the air as of yesterday even though this is still a tropical storm.  I mean, you have first responders who have risked life and limb to rescue families that were stranded after Hurricane Harvey made landfall.

But to see the way that people are volunteering, to see the way that people are contacting the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, and other organizations, and providing the necessary financial resources that those groups are already deploying on the ground is — it just — it really is deeply inspiring to President Trump and myself and to our entire administration.

But I can’t say enough to your millions of listeners, particularly those in the affected areas, with families in the affected areas, just to note this is still a very dangerous storm.  And while the federal government is there now with more than 8,500 officials on the ground, we’ve been moving literally over a million meals and over a million liters of water.  We positioned Coast Guard assets, Navy assets.  But the reality is that this is a long way from over.  It could get worse before it gets better, with additional rain coming.  And we need to —

Q    The rebuilding phase, that’s going to start the — I mean, once we get past this and the water recedes, and then people see the full impact of the damage, that’s when they’re going to be reaching out to you because that’s rebuilding time and this is where it —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

Q    It’s going to be a long-time, ongoing effort here, wouldn’t you say?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right.  You know, it will be.  And people within the sound of my voice who are in the affected areas or have families should know that they can go to and they can already begin — we have some 22,000 that have already registered for disaster assistance, and there’s a broad range of financial support that is available to support housing, to support businesses that are affected by storms of this magnitude.  And we think there might be as many as a half-a-million people ultimately eligible, given the enormity of this storm.

Q    Wow.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And again, people can go to and already begin to register for that assistance.

But your listeners should know, Rush, 100 percent of our focus, 100 percent of the focus in that room in FEMA that I just left five minutes ago is on the rescue operation.  And it’s just so important that people listen to local officials — if they’re to shelter in place, to stay there; not to return to areas that have been evacuated; not attempt to get out into what is still a very dangerous storm.  And —

Q    Mr. Vice President, I’m down to five seconds and I know you have your meeting to go to.  Thanks for making time for us today.  I’m sure it was valuable and worthwhile for many.  We’ll be back here, folks.  Don’t go away.

12:29 P.M. EDT