CNN’s Psaki: Trump Sounds ‘Almost Gleeful and Excited’ for Destructive Hurricane Florence

On the Tuesday edition of CNN’s The Lead, political commentator and former Obama administration official Jen Psaki suggested that the President was “almost gleeful and excited about” Hurricane Florence, its size, and possible destruction as if it’s an accomplishment he helped engineer.

Psaki and her fellow panelists were responding to President Trump’s comments moments earlier in the Oval Office about the federal government’s preparations for Florence and current weather forecasts about potential impacts when she stated that “his tone” was “very jarring.”

 

 

“I mean, he came across as almost gleeful and excited about the hurricane and how big it is and how tremendously wet it's going to be and all these absurd things that came out of his mouth,” Psaki added before arguing that, concerning natural disasters, “the President should be calm, he should be sober, he should conveying to people to be calm, to follow instructions” but he’s not doing any of that.

Trump did just that, telling the pool of reporters that, among other points, “the safety of the American people is my absolutely highest priority,” the government is “sparing no expense” while being joined in the Oval by FEMA Administrator Brock Long and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

After a series of clips from the pool spray, Psaki continued: 

And, you know, it is — you just saw his tone there, but it is — he talks as if this is an accomplishment for him. Like, I created this big, crazy hurricane. Of course, that's not his intention. We can talk about climate change, too, but that tone is concerning. He may know he's changing the conversation, but ultimately, he likes the role of being in charge, but he’s not doing a service to the people in these places that will be impacted. 

The panel was supposed to be talking about Hurricane Florence’s landfall in the Carolinas set for later this week, but the President’s comments about the government’s response to the devastation over the last year in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria sent the press into a frenzy. 

Fellow liberal political commentator Angela Rye piled on before Psaki, dubbing it “an unsung inaccuracy” and claiming without evidence that the President has been “spend[ing] more time singing his own praises rather than really leaning into a conversation with people in leadership there to figure out how they can really overcome and really have a success story for this particular storm.”

Anti-Trump Republican Amanda Carpenter also agreed and led into Psaki by suggesting Trump has a “warped approach...towards disasters” as if he’s “Santa Claus giving out goodies.” Of course, nevermind Barack Obama walking the beaches after Sandy and hugging Chris Christie days before his reelection.

The lone balance came from former Mitch McConnell aide Josh Holmes (click “expand” to see more):

You know, and I agree, there is no success when you’re losing 3,000 Americans, period, end of sentence. No need to deliberate on that. I think probably what he's referring to, and what I think some of the administration believe that they're judged harshly on with respect to the Puerto Rico response is that in large part, the death toll there and the aftermath — and some of the things that the people are still experiencing down in Puerto Rico are due in large part because of the lack of infrastructure in Puerto Rico. And you could have the best response in the world. I mean, literally, the best response possible and you still probably would not have impacted the loss of human life. Now, could you have gotten power up and running? We can all argue that. I'm not a FEMA response major. I don't know the answer to that, but I don't think that you can blame President Trump for what's happened in Puerto Rico. Now, what they can do is do this right and I would be focused on that like a laser if I were all of them. 

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s The Lead on September 11, click “expand.”

CNN’s The Lead
September 11, 2018
4:08 p.m. Eastern

JAKE TAPPER: Let's talk about what the President's comments with the panel here, obviously, when it comes to this pending storm, we're all hoping for the best and hoping the Trump administration does everything it can do. But the President saying that Puerto Rico was an “unsung success” when the latest official government death toll from the government of Puerto Rico, and let's remember, these are American citizens, that's a U.S. territory, is 2,975 dead. That is an unsung success. 

ANGELA RYE: No, it's an unsung inaccuracy. To go from 64 to make that kind of leap in the thousands, not to mention the number of people and families who had to relocate completely off the island, not to mention the fact that their economy is now on life support and electricity is not all the way functioning. It's far from a success and the fact that Donald Trump today would spend more time singing his own praises rather than really leaning into a conversation with people in leadership there to figure out how they can really overcome and really have a success story for this particular storm, I think is very telling. 

TAPPER: Do you think, Amanda, there are — President Trump doesn't have the people around him who tell him, hey, by the way, don't say that about Puerto Rico. It's not a success, and they just upgraded the death toll to 2,975? That's not a success, it's embarrassing to see.

AMANDA CARPENTER Perhaps, but I also think there's probably people in the White House that have given up in trying to message the president. I mean, look at his performance when he actually went to Puerto Rico. He’s just throwing out paper towels like he's Santa Claus giving out goodies and I think this is part of the warped approach that he has towards disasters. He views it as an opportunity to hand out money and goodies for which people should be grateful to him and he doesn't understand the devastation and the fears and honestly, if he thinks Puerto Rico is a success, I'm a little nervous. That makes me more nervous about Florence coming in. 

JEN PSAKI: I was really struck and Angela touched on this a little bit, but the inaccuracy, obviously, is very jarring, but also his tone. I mean, he came across as almost gleeful and excited about the hurricane and how big it is and how tremendously wet it's going to be and all these absurd things that came out of his mouth. You know, I worked in the White House for eight years. Many people have. In these moments is when the President should be calm, he should be sober, he should conveying to people to be calm, to follow instructions. It's really a public service moment. It's not about touting your own accomplishments and certainly not about taking the tone he had. 

TAPPER: Let me play the sound you're talking about specifically when President Trump was talking about the hurricane. 

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They haven't seen anything like what's coming at us in 25, 30 years. Maybe ever. [SCREEN WIPE] It's tremendously big and tremendously wet. Tremendous amounts of water. [SCREEN WIPE] It could very well be very similar to Texas in the sense that it's tremendous amounts of water. Texas was the one that had — probably brought more water than we have ever seen in a storm or a hurricane and it went out for seconds and thirds. 

TAPPER: That's what you were talking about, Jen.

PSAKI:  Exactly. And, you know, it is — you just saw his tone there, but it is — he talks as if this is an accomplishment for him. Like, I created this big, crazy hurricane. Of course, that's not his intention. 

RYE: He did, though. Not this one, but in others —

PSAKI: We can talk about climate change, too, but that tone is concerning. He may know he's changing the conversation, but ultimately, he likes the role of being in charge, but he’s not doing a service to the people in these places that will be impacted. 

TAPPER: Josh, do you agree, that there's a tonal issue here? 

JOSH HOLMES: Certainly, a public service moment, I agree with you on that. You know, and I agree, there is no success when you’re losing 3,000 Americans, period, end of sentence. No need to deliberate on that. I think probably what he's referring to, and what I think some of the administration believe that they're judged harshly on with respect to the Puerto Rico response is that in large part, the death toll there and the aftermath — and some of the things that the people are still experiencing down in Puerto Rico —

TAPPER: Yeah. 

HOLMES: — are due in large part because of the lack of infrastructure in Puerto Rico. And you could have the best response in the world. I mean, literally, the best response possible and you still probably would not have impacted the loss of human life. Now, could you have gotten power up and running? We can all argue that. I'm not a FEMA response major. I don't know the answer to that, but I don't think that you can blame President Trump for what's happened in Puerto Rico. Now, what they can do is do this right and I would be focused on that like a laser if I were all of them. 

TAPPER: Do you want to just —

CARPENTER: Yeah. I just — it blows my mind that anyone can claim success on any level when thousands of people died. The end. 

NB Daily Hurricanes Hurricane Maria FEMA CNN The Lead Video Government & Press Jen Psaki Donald Trump Kirstjen Nielsen
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