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Obama meets with Flint, Michigan mayor at the White House

The mayor of Flint, Michigan travels to Washington, D.C., to ask for more aid to combat the toxic water crisis in her city
Flint mayor travels to D.C. for more help amid water crisis 03:46

Flint, Michigan Mayor Karen Weaver met with President Obama at the White House Tuesday to discuss the drinking water crisis in her city.

"The president heard firsthand how the residents of Flint are dealing with the ongoing public health crisis, and the challenges that still exist for the city, its residents, and the business community," the White House said in a statement.

Weaver was at the White House on a previously scheduled trip with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, though earlier Tuesday she met with White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett to discuss the crisis.

"We felt it was important for staff at the White House to hear at some length the challenges that are facing the city," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Mr. Obama is traveling to Michigan Wednesday, but is unlikely to visit Flint, Earnest said.

On Saturday, the president signed an emergency declaration for Flint, clearing the way for federal aid as the city responds to the fact that its water supply is contaminated with lead. The Health and Human Services (HHS) Department, in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will coordinate the federal response to the crisis. In a blog post Tuesday, HHS said that it will have a team on the ground in Flint this week, led by Dr. Nicole, Lurie, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Lurie will travel to Flint on Wednesday.

Michigan governor faces backlash over Flint water crisis 02:56

So far, Democrat Hillary Clinton is the only 2016 candidate who has contacted Weaver about the water crisis, the mayor said on a conference call with the Clinton campaign and reporters on Tuesday.

"Water is a basic right, so it's a social issue," Weaver said. "So I'm just so thankful to the secretary for speaking up about Flint. You know, it showed her leadership skills... We need the governor to continue to be pressured and pushed on. We need people to be held accountable. We need money from the state, and we need some federal assistance."

When asked whether she's endorsing Clinton for president, Weaver responded, "I want Hillary."

In Sunday night's Democratic primary debate, Clinton referenced her response to the water crisis to prove she's an effective leader. She slammed Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for failing to respond to the crisis quickly enough, noting that she went on television to publicly pressure him.

"I said it was outrageous the governor hasn't acted, and within two hours, he had," she said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, repeated his call for Snyder to resign because of how he had handled the situation.

"A man who acts that irresponsibly should not stay in power," he said.

Sanders referenced the crisis again in Carroll, Iowa on Tuesday when asked about infrastructure improvements. He called it one of the "great public health tragedies of our time."

"We used to have, 30 years ago, the best infrastructure in the entire world," he said. "That is no longer the case. Many, many other countries are ahead of us. Our bridges all over this country, including my own state, are in severe disrepair. Water systems, oh God, I mean you know let's not even get into Flint, Michigan and the horror that is taking place right there. One of the great public health tragedies of our time. But all over this country you're seeing water systems that are very old."

Republican front runner Donald Trump said Tuesday that "it's a shame what's happening in Flint," but added that he did not want to comment further.

"They've got a very difficult problem, and I know the governor's got a very difficult time going, but you know, I shouldn't be commenting on Flint," he said.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, Ohio's Republican Gov. John Kasich said, "Well, I mean, they have to find a solution to it, a way out of it. I think the governor's moved the National Guard in, and you know, I'm sure he will manage this appropriately." Asked whether Snyder should resign, Kasich said no.

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