WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump is attending a church service on a National Day of Prayer for Harvey victims.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived at St. John’s Church, an Episcopal church near the White House, on Sunday morning.
Trump had declared Sunday a National Day of Prayer for Harvey victims and recovery efforts in Texas and Louisiana. In his official proclamation he called on “Americans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers today for all those harmed by Hurricane Harvey.
“The entire Nation grieves with Texas and Louisiana. We are deeply grateful for those performing acts of service, and we pray for healing and comfort for those in need,” the September 1 statement reads.
“When we look across Texas and Louisiana, we see the American spirit of service embodied by countless men and women. Brave first responders have rescued those stranded in drowning cars and rising water. Families have given food and shelter to those in need,” it continues.
In his proclamation Trump noted that houses of worship have organized efforts to clean up communities and repair damaged homes, and that individuals of every background are working to aid and comfort people facing devastating losses.
Trump made a second visit on Saturday to communities devastated by Harvey, traveling to Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana.
An upbeat and optimistic president visited a Houston mega-shelter housing hundreds of displaced people and briefly walked streets lined with soggy, discarded possessions.
Trump met the scene with positivity, congratulating officials on an emergency response still in progress and telling reporters that he’d seen “a lot of love” and “a lot of happiness” in the devastation the storm left behind.
Joined by his wife Melania, Trump brought coloring books and crayons and sat with families that had been displaced. Trump lifted one little girl into his arms and gave her a kiss. He signed his name on the cement wall by the children’s artwork.
With a wide smile and quick banter, Trump served food in the lunch line — at one point joking about his hands being too big for the sanitary gloves — and then moved on to First Church in the Houston suburb of Pearland. There Trump greeted a group of volunteers and lavished praise on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his state’s response.
“I want to congratulate the governor,” he said. “I want to congratulate everybody that’s worked so hard. It’s been an incredible five days, six days. It seems like it’s been much longer than that, but actually it’s going so well that it’s going fast, in a certain sense.”
The Trumps then helped load small boxes and bottles of water into pickup trucks and minivans.
“I like doing this,” Trump told one of the volunteer coordinators. “I like it.”
As Trump visited, the Houston area was still burying its dead and trying to contain the mess. Nearby Beaumont, Texas, population 120,000, was struggling to restore its drinking water. Firefighters in Crosby, outside of Houston, were warily eyeing the Arkema chemical plant, twice the scene of explosions. Floodwaters have inundated at least seven highly contaminated toxic waste sites in the Houston area, raising concerns about creeping pollution.
Harvey is blamed for at least 44 deaths and believed to have damaged at least 156,000 dwellings in Harris County. The American Red Cross said more than 17,000 people have sought refuge in Texas shelters such as the one Trump visited.
The White House has asked Congress to approve $7.9 billion for initial relief efforts when lawmakers return to Washington on Tuesday.
Crux staff contributed to this report.