No, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis did not send President Donald Trump a formal request he declare a federal emergency as Hurricane Dorian heads to the Tarheel State.
Several media outlets tightly interpreted a presidential tweet posted Monday night in which Trump said such a declaration soon would get his signature “at the request of Senator Thom Tillis.” The president signed the declaration later that night.
At the request of Senator Thom Tillis, I am getting the North Carolina Emergency Declaration completed and signed tonight. Hope you won’t need it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2019
Only governors have the authority to request a federal emergency declaration for their state, per the 1988 Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which states that “all requests for a declaration by the President that a major disaster exists shall be made by the Governor of the affected State.”
Trump’s tweet set off some consternation on the social media site.
Senators can’t do that liar in chief @realDonaldTrumpLies about everything!#TrumpTrain2020 https://t.co/X0v8iBQQSi — ForJusticeNow (@now_justice) September 4, 2019
North Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat. His office requested the federal disaster declaration Monday after issuing a state emergency declaration Friday.— MissDenise (@MissVannaD) September 4, 2019
@realdonaldtrump is demented... Trump said he granted a disaster declaration at the request of North Carolina’s GOP senator. It came from the state’s Democratic governor; under fed law, requests by states for disaster declarations are made by governors https://t.co/ww4wJQTBt1— (((TheRReport))) (@TheRReport) September 4, 2019
A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed the formal ask came, as required by law, from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. Tillis tweeted at 8:35 p.m. Monday that he had just talked with Trump about the declaration.
Just got off the phone with President @realDonaldTrump. He told me he will be granting the Governor's emergency declaration and assured me that North Carolina will have the full resources of the federal government to respond to #HurricaneDorian. Thank you, Mr. President. #ncpol— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) September 2, 2019
The same source said Trump and Tillis have spoken by phone “a few times” over the last several days as Dorian turned north and, as the National Hurricane Center predicted in its 11 a.m. Wednesday update, set its sights on the Carolinas.
It is not uncommon for sitting senators or House members to make a plea to a sitting president for federal help as a major storm is heading their constituents’ way.
So why did the president opt to tout Tillis’ ask rather than Cooper’s official request? Consider that Cooper is a Democrat and Tillis is in a competitive race for reelection, with Democrats pleased with a recent Emerson poll that shows Tillis as vulnerable.
The source acknowledged Trump is eager to help Tillis, but noted the boss’s Monday evening tweet was taken “way too literally.”
Trump also defended his decision to shift Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to migrant detention programs by saying the federal government expects to spend far less in reaction to Hurricane Dorian and because “we need help at the border.” He expressed no second thoughts about the funding shift as hurricane season starts.
Meanwhile, Trump invited the day’s media pool into the Oval Office Wednesday afternoon after he was briefed by Department of Homeland Security officials on Dorian’s status and possible path.
“It took a right turn. Hopefully we are going to be lucky,” Trump said.
A few minutes later, according to a pool report, he acknowledged federal officials “don’t know where the hurricane is turning” as he displayed a map showing the initial projection and saying he hopes the Carolinas would “get lucky” and largely be spared as it appears Florida will be.
Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.