Hurricane Harvey: Trump faces test of 1st major storm during his presidency

PHOTO: President Donald Trump walks from Marine One across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Aug. 23, 2017, as he returns from Reno, Nev. PlayCarolyn Kaster/AP
WATCH Hurricane Harvey marks Trump's 1st test of response to a natural disaster

President Trump faces the first major storm of his presidency as Texas braces for Harvey, which is forecasted to make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane early Saturday morning. Harvey is expected to cause "catastrophic flooding" across portions of southern and southeastern Texas, according to the National Weather Service.

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The president has already been briefed on the hurricane and, according to the White House, is continuing to closely monitor the storm as he travels to Camp David for the weekend.

During today's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president intends to travel to Texas early next week.

The president tweeted a photo of himself receiving a briefing from Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Thomas Bossert and Brock Long, the new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator, today.

The president has also phoned Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, committing to providing assistance as necessary.

Bossert told reporters today that the White House is contemplating issuing an emergency declaration and was under the impression that Gov. Abbott has already made a formal request to FEMA.

Bossert added that if the conditions were met and it is "appropriate to provide federal assistance," he believed Trump would be "very aggressive" in declaring it a disaster.

The Department Homeland Security is still without a permanent secretary after Trump appointed its former head to be his chief of staff. According to the Washington Post, Trump's nominees for two top positions in FEMA, the deputy administrator and the deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness -- have not yet been confirmed either.

During Thursday's briefing, Sanders batted down potential concerns.

"There's certainly someone at the helm. We have acting Secretary Elaine Duke who's watching this closely, very involved in the process," Sanders said.

"I think that we are in great shape, having General Kelly sitting next to the president throughout this process, and probably no better chief of staff for the president during the hurricane season," Sanders said.

Bossert reiterated today that "we couldn't have a better team...under that leadership team at DHS" and "we're in good hands on the federal level."

Trump has tweeted three times so far about the hurricane; his first tweet on Thursday was a reminder to plan ahead, including a video of his August 4 visit to FEMA headquarters for a briefing on hurricane season.

First Lady Melania Trump also tweeted about the hurricane.

FEMA Administrator Long urged people in the path of the storm to heed warnings and to take evacuation orders seriously.

"This may be the first major landfall hurricane we've had since 2005," Long said in an interview on "Good Morning America" Friday. "So there's going to be damage."

Natural disasters are frequently a test with political ramifications for sitting presidents, as the nation looks to its leader for inspiration and strength in trying times.

President Obama responded to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 during his re-election campaign against GOP challenger Mitt Romney. An ABC News/Washington Post poll at the time showed that 8 in 10 likely voters thought President Obama did an "excellent" or "good" job responding to the super storm that hit parts of New Jersey and New York particularly hard. At the time, Romney told CNN that he felt it was Obama's response to the crisis that helped win him re-election.

On the other hand, President Bush was strongly criticized for his response to Hurricane Katrina, and his critics blasted him for being disconnected from the crisis in New Orleans.

President Trump may face an uphill battle when it comes to the public's opinion of his ability to handle a crisis: 52 percent of Americans said they do not trust Trump during a crisis, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from April, which was 100 days into Trump's presidency.

ABC News' Katherine Faulders and Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.

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