The Note: Harvey's devastation makes Washington squabbles seem small

The president is confident Congress will react quickly to the storm.

— -- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Trump and first lady Melania Trump travel to Texas as the state recovers from Hurricane Harvey and gears up for three more days of rain in the Houston area.
  • "Nothing to do with Russia"? Just four months into his campaign for president, then-candidate Trump signed a "letter of intent" to construct what would have been the world’s tallest building in Moscow.
  • Trump says he "stands" by his pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. As for the Friday night timing, Trump quipped that storm coverage probably earned it “far higher” ratings.
  • It’s complicated: President Trump predicts quick, bipartisan action on disaster relief for Texas and Louisiana but that hefty bill may just complicate Congress’ plan to avoid a government shutdown.

  • THE TAKE with ABC News' Rick Klein

    One consequence of a tragic weather event is that big fights look small, and small fights look petty. So it is with squabbles over government funding, which was poised to be the issue of September in Congress, spurred on by President Trump's casual suggestion, just a week ago, that shutting down the government might be a worthy price to pay for the border wall. Considering that the scope of the devastation in Texas is barely known, and considering the fact that the federal response has barely begun and will likely span years, does anyone seriously think this would be a good time to let government funding lapse? The president was confident Monday that money would be approved quickly for Harvey, saying that such a funding measure would have "nothing to do" with talk of shutdowns. But as he travels to Texas today, Trump is leaving a shutdown over wall funding on the table, to say nothing of brinksmanship over the debt ceiling. "Tragic times such as these bring out the best in America's character," the president said Monday. We also, as he knows, live in times where nothing is as easy as it should be.

    White House Tiptoes in Texas

    Along with ensuring that the recovery from Hurricane Harvey is proceeding smoothly, there's one other thing the president and his advisers are sure to worry about today: optics. President Trump's approval rating stands at just 35 percent, according to Gallup, a number the White House can't be happy with. Natural disasters have and will always be a reality, and how a modern president is seen responding to the public can have a substantial impact on public opinion. President Obama's warm reception by Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey was seen as a boost to Obama just one week before his re-election, and garnered him a 2 point boost in approval rating in the week after the storm. Earlier in his presidency, President Obama had seen his approval rating drop 4 points in the months after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Perhaps the most striking modern example was the failure of the Bush administration to swiftly respond to Hurricane Katrina, which became a permanent stain on the younger Bush's legacy. Expect the White House to be very careful with the images and scenes out of Texas today, ABC's JOHN VERHOVEK writes.

    QUOTE OF THE DAY

    "Actually in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally," Trump said about the specific timing of his pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio Monday.

    WHAT TO WATCH TODAY

    The president and first lady depart Washington, D.C., at 8:50 a.m. ET and arrive in Corpus Christi, Texas, at 11:25 a.m. ET. Upon arriving, they are expected to receive a briefing on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. They will then travel to Austin, Texas, and take a tour of the Emergency Operations center and participate in a briefing on the hurricane with state leadership.

    POWERHOUSE POLITICS’ PODCAST

    Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., joins the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast this week. Meadows, who is the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, sits down with ABC News’ Jon Karl and Rick Klein.

    NEED TO READ with ABC News' Daksha Sthipam

    Trump signed a "letter of intent" for Russian tower during campaign, lawyer says. Four months into his campaign for president of the United States, Donald Trump signed a “letter of intent” to pursue a Trump Tower-style building development in Moscow, according to a statement from the then-Trump Organization chief counsel, Michael Cohen. The proposal would have involved construction of the world’s tallest building in Moscow. http://abcn.ws/2xHeyd2

    As Harvey rages, Texas senators defend votes against Sandy funding. As the federal government considers how best to help Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey, GOP Rep. Pete King, whose home state of New York was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2013, reminded his Lone Star State colleagues that some of them voted against a $51-billion aid package that year. King tweeted, "Ted Cruz & Texas cohorts voted vs NY/NJ aid after Sandy but I'll vote 4 Harvey aid. NY won't abandon Texas. 1 bad turn doesn't deserve another." http://abcn.ws/2xscy9m

    Trump defends Arpaio pardon, pushes back on questions over timing. Provided the opportunity to defend his pardon of Joe Arpaio, President Donald Trump on Monday claimed the controversial former Arizona sheriff was treated "unbelievably unfairly." "I thought [Arpaio] was treated unbelievably unfairly when they came down with their big decision to go get him right before the election voting started," the president said. http://abcn.ws/2wNIMyF

    Top Trump organization executive asked Putin aide for help on business deal. The Washington Post

    Bannon wages war against Trump-backed candidate in Alabama. Politico

    North Korea fires missile over Japan, provoking rebuke. USA Today

    Trump punishes longtime aide after angry Phoenix speech, sources say. Bloomberg

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.