Interview of Vice President Pence by Russ Lewis, KHOU-Houston
11:43 A.M. EDT
Q Mr. Vice President, are you there?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm here, loud and clear, coming to you from FEMA Headquarters.
Q All right, sir. We appreciate it. You're on with KHOU here in Houston. My name is Russ Lewis. We have our crew here. We've been on the air for many, many hours and we appreciate you checking in with us.
So you're at FEMA Headquarters. Let's just talk about what you're seeing there. We heard from somebody from FEMA at a press conference this morning. What are you seeing there right now?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Russ, first, let me say the President asked me to come here -- FEMA Headquarters -- this morning to meet with our personnel. And let me convey the President's thoughts and prayers, and the determination of all of us here to continue to provide all of the support of the federal government to state and local efforts there in Houston.
I can tell you, the hearts of every American are in Houston today. We are with you and we will continue to bring the full weight of the federal government behind the efforts to see to the rescue of those who are in harm's way and also to the long-term effort of recovery that will be necessary to bring this great city and this great region of the state of Texas back.
Q We know how important it is, Mr. Vice President, for the state to be in direct touch with FEMA to make the requests needed. Is that communication happening as well as it should, as far as you can tell?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We commend Governor Abbott and local officials on the extraordinary cooperation that's taken place, Russ, frankly, since before the storm made landfall on Friday. As you know, at the state's urging, President Trump issued an emergency declaration on Friday night that made it possible for the full resources of the federal government -- now more than 8,500 federal personnel that are in southeast Texas today, in the Houston area today -- to be on the ground. We pre-positioned resources to be able to assist state and local officials.
As you know, Russ, state governments and local governments are in the lead. We greatly admire the work that Governor Abbott, the National Guard, local officials, and all your courageous first responders are taking. But from even before this storm came ashore, with the direction of President Trump and his declaration, the full weight of the federal government has been there.
And I want to urge your viewers to continue to heed the direction of local emergency management personnel, but know that the federal government is there now. We're on the ground, we're increasing our presence and our commitment, and we will see this through -- through the rescue phase and all the way through to the recovery phase.
Q Mr. Vice President, there's concern about money -- FEMA having enough of it to respond properly to this. We understand there's only $3 billion or so in the disaster relief fund. Is that enough? Does Congress need to appropriate more? There was so much more for a storm like Katrina; doesn't appear to be that much right now. What's going on there?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, in speaking with FEMA officials, we truly believe that we have the reserves to address the financial burden of this crisis. But candidly, Russ, before I was Vice President, I was a governor. Before that, I was in the Congress. And we're very confident that the Congress of the United States is going to be there to provide the resources necessary -- not only that that we already have with regard to rescue efforts, but to make sure that the disaster assistance that already some 22,000 Texans have signed up for is available and is there.
We actually anticipate that as many as a half-a-million people in Texas will be eligible for and applying for financial disaster assistance, and we remain very confident that with the reserves and with the support in the Congress, we’ll have the resources that we need.
But right now, as you know very well, the focus now is on rescue, on getting people out of harm’s way, on making sure that anyone within the sound of my voice heeds the direction of local officials; not put themselves into harm’s way by attempting to enter what could be very dangerous flooding and is, in fact, a very dangerous storm, as we speak; or, in some cases there have been some reports of people trying to return to areas that have been evacuated.
The President and I could not be more grateful for the efforts of state and local officials in Texas. But it’s so important that Texans continue to do what people have been doing, and that is listening to local emergency management officials and making sure that they and their families stay safe.
Q All right, we’re out of time, Mr. Vice President. Real quick though -- is the President coming to Texas? We’re hearing that, but have not heard anything official. Have you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I actually just left the White House this morning, and the President is finishing plans to come to Texas tomorrow. The President and the First Lady will be traveling to Texas. But as you know, from the time the President signed the emergency declaration on Friday, to assembling the Cabinet twice over the weekend, the President has been in continuous contact with our emergency management personnel here, with state and local leadership in Texas. And the President has made it very clear that our entire administration is to bring the full weight of federal support to state and local efforts to meet this crisis.
We know it’s far from over. We know there’s more rain coming. The flood waters will likely continue to rise. But your viewers should know that they have the support of this administration from the President on down. We’ll continue to provide all the support to state and local officials.
And let me also say, on behalf of the President and our families here in the administration, and we’re continuing to carry the people of southeast Texas and Houston in our prayers. So you’ll have our support, you’ll have our prayers, and we’ll keep all that coming.
Q Vice President Mike Pence, thank you very much for joining us here on KHOU. We appreciate it. We look forward to the President’s visit here to the state tomorrow.
11:50 A.M. EDT