As news broke that Donald Trump’s campaign chairman,, Trump and his running mate Mike Pence toured some of the areas damaged by recent .
In East Baton Rouge Parish, Friday, Trump’s motorcade drove through hard-hit communities, where ripped up carpet and flooring, furniture and the entire contents of homes were piled on the curb. People who were still mucking out their homes, in some instances, came out to wave at the motorcade with gloved hands dirty from their house-gutting work. He and Pence then met a group of volunteers at a Baptist church who have been cooking meals for flood victims and helping the elderly gut their homes.
A torrent of about two feet of rain inundated the southern part of the state, devastating areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina over a decade ago. Tens of thousands of Louisiana residents have been displaced by the flooding, and at least 13 people were killed.
The Republican nominee’s decision to visit Louisiana came after the White House said President Obama was unlikely to break from a New England vacation to survey the damage, despite calls for him to visit and meet with responders and victims.
In an editorial published Wednesday, The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge called on Obama to visit “the most anguished state in the union.” The newspaper noted that Obama interrupted his two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard earlier this week to attend a fundraiser for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on the Massachusetts island.
However, Trump’s decision to tour the flood-ravaged areas was met with harsh words from the Democratic governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards.
“We welcome him to LA, but not for a photo-op,” said his spokesman Richard Carbo in a statement. “Instead, we hope he’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm. “
Edwards says he won’t be involved in Trump’s visit, and while he said in an interview Thursday that the president is “welcome to visit,” he’d prefer that the president wait.
“In all honesty, if he’s going to visit, I would just as soon it be a week or 10 days or 14 days from now,” Edwards told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. He went on to talk about the resources that are tied up for such a visit, referring to Joe Biden’s recent trip to Louisiana a few weeks ago.
“[T]he vice president was here about three weeks ago to go to a memorial service for the victims of the police officers that were killed here, and I will tell you it’s a major ordeal,” Edwards continued. “They free up the interstate for him. We have to take hundreds of local first responders, police officers sheriff’s deputies and state troopers to provide security for that type of visit. I would just as soon have those people engaged in the response rather than trying to secure the president. So I’d ask him to wait if he would.”
Edwards also told Maddow that the President had called him early in this flooding crisis, declared a disaster as soon as Louisiana requested it, and deployed all of the resources requested by the state.
Trump’s trip to Louisiana, a rare departure for the candidate whose campaign so far has consisted largely of mass rallies and television phone-ins, came a day after he made a rare expression of remorse for making comments that “may have caused personal pain.”
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, spoke to Edwards by phone on Friday about the flooding that has ravaged his state.
“My heart breaks for Louisiana, and right now, the relief effort can’t afford any distractions. The very best way this team can help is to make sure Louisianans have the resources they need,” the Democratic presidential nominee said in a post on Facebook.
Clinton said that people can donate money to the Red Cross and to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
“These are our friends, our family members, our community—and they’re counting on us to reach out with open arms right now. This team has done so much for me. Now I’m asking you to show that same support to the victims in Louisiana, so that we can begin to rebuild together,” she added.
In an uncharacteristic move at a rally in North Carolina on Thursday night, Trump
“Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that,” the GOP nominee, reading from prepared text, said at a rally in Charlotte, N.C. Thursday night. “And believe it or not, I regret it — and I do regret it — particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”
Trump overhauled the top level of his campaign earlier this week for the second time since May, promoting pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager and hiring Steve Bannon, the chief executive of Breitbart, as CEO of the campaign.
Trump’s new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway suggested that the visit was part of a larger effort, like his speech on Thursday, to pivot to a more presidential phase.
“It’s also presidential today to have him and Governor Pence going to Louisiana in a decidedly nonpolitical event,” she told ABC’s Good Morning America Friday,” adding that they would be “going to help people on the ground who are in need.”
CBS News’ Steve Dorsey contributed to this report.