President Donald Trump met with his top emergency management officials and offered his prayers to those hunkering down in Hurricane Michael's path on Wednesday. And then he jetted off to a fundraiser and political rally in Pennsylvania.
Trump said earlier on Wednesday he was wrestling with whether to scrap his rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, and instead stay at the White House to monitor the government's response to "one of the biggest storms ever to hit our country."
But, ultimately, Trump said he felt he could not "disappoint" his supporters lined up for his rally.
"Departing the @WhiteHouse for Erie, Pennsylvania," Trump tweeted. "I cannot disappoint the thousands of people that are there - and the thousands that are going. I look forward to seeing everyone this evening."
The President did not note that he was also going to raise money for Pennsylvania's Republican Senate candidate Rep. Lou Barletta. A GOP source involved in the event said the Barletta campaign was urging the White House not to cancel his trip because of the fundraiser and the dwindling time left before the election to schedule another rally.
As the window for Floridians to evacuate from Hurricane Michael's path officially closed, Trump said his message to those bracing for the storm was simple: "God bless you all."
"I say, 'God bless you all,'" Trump said when asked for his message to residents in the Florida Panhandle. "That's my message, because that's what it is. The storm is there. It's sort of too late to do that now from the standpoint of moving."
The President and his top emergency management officials warned Wednesday from the Oval Office that Hurricane Michael is the most powerful storm to hit the Florida panhandle area in more than a century and expressed concern that too many people in the storm's path have not heeded evacuation orders.
As the storm prepared to make landfall, Trump said he had yet to decide whether he will go to his planned campaign rally in Pennsylvania Wednesday evening, noting that people had already started lining up for his evening rally.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long, warning some areas could see as much as 14 feet of storm surge and winds over 145 miles per hour, said the storm looks to be the most powerful to hit the Panhandle since the mid-19th century and worried that too many in the region opted not to evacuate.
"The window to evacuate has come to a close," Long said.
The President noted that some of the areas in the path of the storm "are very poor," making it more difficult for some to evacuate.
"It's not so easy for some of these people to leave," Trump said. "Some of these areas are very poor."
"You have people that are stuck, they're just stuck there," he added.
Trump said the government has been helping some people evacuate, but he said others "don't want to go out."
"They will be OK," Trump said. "They are strong, smart, wonderful people."
The President said he had a "long talk" with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and said his administration is "very well coordinated" with all of the affected states.
"We've got food supplies, food chains, we're working with all of the states," Trump said.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also said that utility companies from 14 states have lined up just outside the path of the storm, prepared to go in and begin fixing the power once the storm passes.
Trump said he plans to make a decision "over the next little while" about whether to attend his planned rally in Pennsylvania Wednesday evening while the storm moves ashore.
But Trump appeared to be leaning toward wanting to attend, noting that there are already "thousands of people already lined up" to attend the rally in Erie, Pennsylvania.
"It looks like there are thousands of people already lined up and probably we'll do that tonight," Trump said. "Right nearby we have thousands of people going tonight and many are there already. I don't know what to do because we have so many people already there and it's unfair to them."
The President stressed the emergency response was in good hands with his top officials regardless of whether he is at the White House or rallying his supporters in Pennsylvania.
Trump also said he hopes to head down to the areas affected by the hurricane on Sunday or Monday, but said he will wait to ensure his visit does not interfere with recovery efforts.
"We're going to go down here as soon as we can," Trump said. "We'll probably look to Sunday or Monday to go down. Meet with the governors, meet with everybody."
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