CBSN

Trump laments disaster, praises leaders in tour of hurricane-ravaged Florida, Georgia

Last Updated Oct 15, 2018 4:39 PM EDT

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump are visiting Florida and Georgia on Monday to see firsthand damage sustained by Hurricane Michael which left at least 19 people dead in the Southeast. 

Before he left, the president told reporters he had spoken with Saudi Arabia's king, who vehemently denies any knowledge about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mr. Trump even suggested "rogue killers" could be behind Khashoggi's disappearance — he was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey — before adding that he didn't know.

"His denial to me could not have been stronger," Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving for Florida and Georgia, adding later, "The denial was not only a denial, it was a very firm denial." 

The Trump administration has been criticized for its reluctance to criticize the Saudis. 

Back at home, the president has attempted to keep some focus on the hurricane that ravaged Florida and Georgia. With winds reaching 155 miles per hour, the monster storm slammed into the Florida Panhandle, leaving behind a trail of destruction FEMA's chief described as among the worst he's ever seen. 

U.S. President Trump is greeted as he arrives for tour of Hurricane Michael storm damage at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) and U.S. Rep Ron DeSantis (R-FL) as the president arrives to tour storm damage from Hurricane Michael at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, U.S., October 15, 2018.

Kevin Lamarque / REUTERS

After Mr. Trump surveyed the damage from a helicopter, he said it's "hard to believe from above", adding after a visit with victims of the storm on the ground in Lynn Haven, Florida, that seeing the devastation was "personally is very, very tough."

"Hard to believe. I've seen pictures. But it's hard to believe," the president said. "When you're above it, in a plane, and to see the total devastation, to see no houses left. Not even the pads are left. It's incredible."

"To see this, personally, it's very tough. Very, very tough. Total devastation," he added. 

US-POLITICS-TRUMP-WEATHER

US President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and Florida Governor Rick Scott(2ndR) and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen(R) tour damage from Hurricane Michael in Lynn Haven, Florida, October 15, 2018. 

Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images

Later at a distribution center, the president handed out water to those impacted by the storm. He was greeted by a round of applause and shook hands with people receiving aid by FEMA workers on site. The president said the federal government was "doing more than anyone would have done" in its response to the storm, adding "we've called for maximum relief."

US-POLITICS-TRUMP-WEATHER

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump hand out bottles of water as they tour damage from Hurricane Michael in Lynn Haven, Florida, October 15, 2018. 

Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images

The president comes to Florida to witness firsthand the impacts of climate change after telling "60 Minutes" on Sunday that he now believes climate change is indeed not a hoax. Mr. Trump devoted much of his presidential campaign to questioning the science behind human impact on the environment. 

"Something's changing and it'll change back again. I don't think it's a hoax, I think there's probably a difference. But I don't know that it's manmade," Mr. Trump told "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl.