Trump seems to have been playing politics with disaster relief.
Trump ignored pleas from Virginia's Democratic governor and its congressional delegation, and initially refused to declare a state of emergency for the Democratic-leaning state as Hurricane Florence, a monster storm, took aim at the mid-Atlantic coast.
Late on Monday night, Trump declared state of emergencies for Republican-friendly North Carolina and South Carolina, even though hurricane forecasts clearly indicated Virginia could suffer catastrophic damage from the historic, Category 4 or 5 hurricane.
But it took until late Tuesday afternoon, after 3 p.m., for Trump to do the same for Virginia — and only after repeated pressure from Virginia's elected officials.
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 11, 2018
Millions of people have already been evacuated in advance of the storm. The mid-Atlantic states are bracing for the first Category 4 or 5 hurricane to make landfall there in nearly two decades.
Virginia's Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam told NPR on Tuesday morning that he had spoken to Trump on Monday and "encouraged" him to declare a state of emergency for the Commonwealth.
Northam had already declared a local state of emergency over the weekend.
Also, on Monday Virginia's entire Congressional delegation took the unusual step of writing to Trump and asking for help.
"A federal emergency declaration would ensure the full availability of federal resources to support the Commonwealth’s efforts to guarantee public safety and rapid recovery from the direct and indirect effects of Hurricane Florence," the congressional lawmakers wrote. "It is increasingly likely that Virginia will face damaging winds, heavy rainfall, and potentially life-threatening storm surge flooding due to Hurricane Florence."
They stressed, " A federal emergency declaration would ensure the full availability of federal resources to support the Commonwealth’s efforts to guarantee public safety and rapid recovery from the direct and indirect effects of Hurricane Florence."
Hours later, Trump declared emergency declarations for North and South Carolina, omitting Virginia.
The idea that a president might play politics with disaster relief where people's lives are in danger was once considered unthinkable.
But after the Trump administration, led by FEMA, provided drastically different levels of relief last year for storms that hit Texas and Louisiana and then for Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and killed approximately 3,000 U.S. citizens, it's not past Trump to view federal assistance as a form of political payback.
He's certainly aware that Virginia has been voting Democratic in recent years.
Editor's note: This piece has been updated. Trump declared a state of emergency just after 3 p.m. on Tuesday, hours after this piece was first published Tuesday morning reporting that he had not done so.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.