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Trump will monitor Hurricane Harvey from Camp David, may visit Texas early next week

The White House is considering having President Trump declare a federal emergency before Hurricane Harvey makes landfall on the Gulf Coast, officials said Friday, to assure that state and local responders have adequate resources.

The potentially devastating storm is confronting Trump with the first natural disaster of his administration, posing a test of leadership and governing competence at a time when he is being widely criticized on that score, even within his own party.

Trump departed the White House on Friday afternoon for a weekend at Camp David in Maryland after being briefed by officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, along with other emergency management officials.

Aides said Trump's main questions were whether emergency responders had what they need to protect residents in Texas, Louisiana and anywhere else in the storm’s path that could experience the torrential rains projected for days in its aftermath.

“This is right up President Trump’s alley,” Tom Bossert, the Homeland Security advisor, said at a news briefing.

“His questions were: Are are you doing what it takes to help the people,” he said. "What we've done has gotten a lot better as a government."

The administration is especially mindful of the slow and bungled response of the George W. Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Questions of competence raised by that episode hobbled President Bush for the remainder of his term.

Longtime Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) warned Trump in a morning tweet, "keep on top of hurricane Harvey dont mke same mistake Pres Bush made w Katrina."

 As Trump strode to his helicopter for the departure to Camp David, reporters shouted to ask what message he had for those in Texas; Trump said either "Be strong" or "Be safe" — the words were unclear over the noise of the helicopter. With him were his wife, son Barron, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner and their three children.

The president will be able to monitor the situation from the weekend retreat, aides said, and might address the nation later. 

Trump is likely to visit Texas early next week, said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Federal officials urged Gulf Coast residents not to ignore advice from local authorities, including evacuation orders. Bossert warned that residents may be unaware of planned road closures or lane reversals if they depart too late, and that delays could endanger their lives and responders.

“You have nothing to lose but your life,” Bossert said. “So I want you to take it seriously. If they’re telling you to evacuate and do it now, listen to their advice.”

Bossert also sought to reassure immigrants who are in the region if they or family members are in the country illegally. Concerns have been raised that they may fear evacuating on routes near border control checkpoints, or avoid taking refuge in shelters at a time when the Trump administration is aggressively pursuing deportations.

Bossert insisted that immigrants would be safe.

“People shouldn’t be fearful of going to a shelter,” he said. “That’s not a problem.”

To Americans far from the storm, going about their summer weekends, Bossert had a separate message: "Let's say a little prayer for those who are affected."

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