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Via Telephone

9:51 A.M. EDT

Q    Mr. Vice President, first of all, thank you very much for your time, sir.  Let me ask you first and foremost, your assessment not just as the Vice President of the United States but as a citizen of this great country — your assessment so far on the rescue and the recovery job being done by the governor of Texas, Mr. Abbott, the state of Texas, in conjunction with the federal government.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, good morning, Charlie.  Thank you for having me on WOAI.  Can I just begin by complimenting this radio station and you?

Q    Absolutely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much for the way that this station has leaned into this effort to provide timely information to people all across the region.  It’s the very best of public service, and we commend you for it.  We truly do.

I would rate — and were President Trump on the phone with you this morning, we would rate Governor Abbott’s leadership, and the efforts of state and local officials, and especially your first responders as excellent.

This is an unprecedented storm.  We’ve been deeply moved by the suffering that we all have witnessed as Americans.  But we’ve been equally inspired by the way that your leadership from the state on down — and the volunteers — the literally armada of volunteers that have made their way with watercraft, large and small, oftentimes into harm’s way, to support efforts to rescue your fellow citizens and in most cases complete strangers.  It’s been very inspiring.

And my message to all of your listeners and to people of Texas is that we are with you.  As we speak, there are more than 8,600 federal officials through FEMA that are on the ground working to support the response in Texas and Louisiana.  We’ve already shipped more the 2.5 million meals, more than 2 million liters of water.  We have more than three dozen Coast Guard fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft, more than a hundred shallow-water rescue boats that have been working in the area for several days in conjunction with local first responders, your Texas National Guard.

And the focus right now, Charlie, is completely on rescue.  We recognize that we’re not out of the woods.  This is still a very dangerous storm.

And anyone within the sound of my voice should know that as this storm continues to pound Texas and Louisiana that there will continue to be life-threatening flooding and that people need to continue to listen very carefully to local emergency managers and officials.  And we will continue to focus on keeping people out of harm’s way and rescuing people that find themselves in dire circumstance.

Q    We are visiting with the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence.  Mr. Vice President, obviously a lot of challenges — you hit on a couple of them right there.  From where you sit, what’s the most challenging aspect of this situation?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think the work that is being done on the ground has been exceptional by state and local officials.  And I was at FEMA yesterday, Charlie, and got a full briefing.  We literally have hundreds of FEMA personnel representing every government agency and most non-profits that are already working in the area like Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse and others.

It’s all-hands-on-deck, but I think for every American what’s frustrating is how relentless this storm continues to be and the sheer magnitude of it, which is historic in its proportions.  But the will of the American people and the resilience of the strong people of Texas is stronger than any storm, and people should know that we are with you now.  We’re focused on rescue.

But very soon when the flood waters recede, they can be confident in Texas and in areas affected in Louisiana that the American people, through the federal government and your state and local officials — we’ll see Texas and the entire region all the way back, as the President said, stronger than ever before, but it’s going to be a long haul.  But right now — right now, Charlie, it’s all about saving lives.

Q    Well, you’re well aware as well that the media politicizing this event with a lot of unnecessary rhetoric, including it’s the administration’s first real test — whatever that means.  I’m sure that you, the President, and the administration are looking at this as anything but a test.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think from Friday night, when the President took the unusual action of declaring an emergency before a hurricane made landfall, I can assure you that our entire administration has been completely engaged.  The President has been in continuous contact.  He assembled the Cabinet twice over this weekend.  All we are focused on is protecting lives and laying a foundation for a full and robust recovery for southeast Texas after this storm.

I mean, there will be a lot of time to talk about this storm and a lot of time to talk about the efforts that have been made in the future, but right now, I can you, from the President on down, we’re all focused on the mission.

And again, let me just say, we couldn’t be more grateful for the leadership of Governor Greg Abbott.  We couldn’t be more inspired by your first responders at every level.  And frankly, for me, looking at the volunteers that have been pouring forth, oftentimes putting themselves in harm’s way to help a stranger, to help a neighbor, to go and come alongside the most vulnerable — it’s just, in many ways, in this very, very challenging time, this could well be Texas’ finest hour.

Q    What can you tell, quickly, Mr. Vice President, about the President’s trip to Texas today?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, the President and the First Lady are in the air.  They, frankly, were both very anxious to be there, to be with families.  They’ll be in Corpus Christi today.  They’ll also be getting a full briefing at the Emergency Operations Center.

And I think the President — to serve with President Donald Trump is to serve with a leader that is absolutely committed to making sure things are happening the way they’re supposed to be happening.  And so, the President wanted to get there not only to show solidarity with the families that are suffering in this storm but to make sure that all the federal agencies engaged are doing everything that can be done to rescue people and lay a foundation for full recovery.

And let me also put a word in too — we just couldn’t be more grateful for the various volunteer organizations that have been on the ground since this weekend, Charlie.  I spoke to the Red Cross myself this weekend.  Samaritan’s Purse is on the ground already, the Salvation Army, numerous church and faith-based organizations are already there with families, as you well know, in providing support and resources.

This is a challenge of such enormous magnitude that, as people remember the families that are affected in prayer, as all of us that are charged with public responsibilities lean into the effort of rescue and recovery, I sure do hope as many of listeners as can would maybe pick up the phone, go online, and find an organization that they can support financially that’s out there putting the hands and feet and the compassion of the American people on the ground at the point of the need.

Q    Thank you very much for your time, and I couldn’t be more proud of my Vice President and President of the United States in this time.

10:00 A.M. EDT