White House

About Trump’s North Carolina Hurricane Dorian emergency declaration...

Another presidential tweet stirs confusion as GOP POTUS seeks to boost Tillis

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is in a competitive race for reelection next year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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.

[Democrats question Trump’s motives as Hurricane Dorian targets Florida]

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.

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.

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.

[Trump to skip Poland trip, and monitor Hurricane Dorian as it heads toward Florida]

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.

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