Harvey Updates: Cities Gear Up to Take In Storm Victims From Texas Coast – New York Times

The rains from Tropical Storm Harvey pounded the Houston region on Monday, stranding thousands of residents — many on rooftops — awaiting rescue. Floodwaters are expected to continue rising for days.

Many turned to social media to get help: “My sister needs help!!!” read one tweet, followed by an address. Officials scrambled to reach stranded people, urging boat owners to pitch in on an enormous and frantic rescue. And with nearly two feet of rain still expected, the authorities worried the worst was yet to come. Here’s the latest:

• With record floodwaters, more than 450,000 people are likely to seek federal aid, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Monday. The agency has estimated that about 30,000 people will seek emergency shelter, and that federal aid will be needed for years. Read more on the storm here.

• Some 100,000 customers in the Houston area are without power, Floyd LeBlanc of CenterPoint Energy said. Repair crews have had trouble getting through the floodwaters.

• On Monday, local officials said the death toll had risen to 10 from five.

“In Harris County, we have six deaths that are potentially flood related,” said Tricia Bentley, a spokeswoman for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, which serves as both a medical examiner’s office and crime lab. Officials also reported one death each in Rockport and La Marque, and two in Montgomery County.

• More than 30 inches of rain has fallen on parts of the Houston area since Thursday, the National Weather Service reported, causing catastrophic flooding that officials have called the worst in the state’s history.

• Harvey turned back out to sea on Monday, with the center of the storm reaching the Gulf of Mexico south of Houston, the National Hurricane Center reported. It was expected to move to the northeast, along the Gulf coast toward far eastern Texas and southwest Louisiana.

• Times journalists chronicled the unfolding disaster: We’re sharing a collection of the most powerful photographs and a guide to our overage. Alan Blinder and Sheri Fink looked at hospitals inundated by patients and water. And Jack Healy visited a San Antonio evacuation center where people were desperate for news from home.

• Follow Times correspondents tracking the storm on Twitter: @mannyNYT, @alanblinder, @julieturkewitz and @ckrausss in Houston, @jackhealyNYT and @David_Philipps in San Antonio, and @jswatz in New Orleans. Some highlights are here. Some of their tweets are collected here. In comments, Times readers shared expressions of shock, sympathy and encouragement. Read them here.

• Are you in an affected area? If you are safe, and are able to, please share your photos and videos with us.

The flooding could get worse in Houston.

The Army Corps of Engineers on Monday began releasing water from flood-control reservoirs, which is likely to worsen flooding in parts of Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

The Buffalo Bayou, the major waterway flowing west to east through the heart of the city, is already at record-high flood levels, and was projected to remain that way for days, even without the release from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs at the western edge of Houston.

“As they increase the water and it comes down, the water level along Buffalo Bayou, in all probability, it will increase,” Mr. Turner said at a news conference. People who were not in a crisis state yesterday may find themselves in a crisis state today,” he added.

With the reservoirs at capacity, the Army Corps began releasing water from them before dawn. Mr. Turner said the release was 5,000 cubic feet per second, and would increase to 8,000.

Evacuees and residents face a new reality.

Rescues of people stranded by floodwaters continued throughout southeastern Texas, and Gov. Greg Abbott said the state was sending hundreds more boats and high-clearance vehicles to the region to aid those efforts.

Governor Abbott activated the entire Texas National Guard, except those already deployed or preparing to deploy on other missions, to aid in storm rescue and recovery. He said the order will increase the number of troops involved to 12,000 from about 3,000.

The city of Dallas is opening a “mega-shelter” to house up to 5,000 evacuees from the battered Gulf Coast, and Mayor Mike Rawlings said on Monday the North Texas city has been asked to brace for “numbers that could be up in the tens of thousands.” In Fort Worth, 30 miles west of Dallas, Mayor Betsy Price said city officials are also preparing to activate shelters once the state requests assistance.

In San Antonio, empty warehouses were being readied as shelters for 4,100 evacuees.

Dallas officials said the city began making arrangements to convert its convention center into a giant shelter after a request from state officials. The city is already operating shelters at three local recreation centers, and Mayor Rawlings said city officials would consider other sites in Dallas and the surrounding county. — JULIE TURKEWITZ in Houston and DAVID MONTGOMERY in Austin.

Waterlogged and abandoned cars are everywhere.

The cars, it seemed, were everywhere, abandoned with few clues as to how their drivers had escaped or what became of those people afterward.

As Harvey continued to unleash itself on Houston, abandoned vehicles became eerie symbols of the storm’s destruction.

Cars sat half-smashed on the side of the road and alone in muddy fields. A red sedan was trapped in a road-turned-river in the Galleria area. A cluster of trucks and S.U.V.s were stuck in a highway-turned-lake on U.S. 59 East.

By one highway ramp, a black vehicle sat surrounded by water, stopped like a dead whale. On an opposite ramp, a semitrailer sat contorted, its front cab facing right in a turn that never fully happened. — JULIE TURKEWITZ in Houston

Trump on federal aid: ‘I think you’re going to be in fantastic shape.’

At a news conference with President Sauli Niinisto of Finland, President Trump said he had spoken with Governor Abbott. He said he expected to receive formal requests for federal aid “very soon,” and predicted that Congress would approve them “very, very quickly.”

“I think you’re going to be in fantastic shape,” Mr. Trump said. He marveled at the size of the storm, saying: “Nobody’s ever seen anything like it. I’ve heard the word ‘epic.’ I’ve heard ‘historic.’ That’s what it is.” Read more »

A refinery shutdown raises concerns of higher gasoline prices.

Harvey so far has caused at least eight refineries in Texas to shut down.

The AAA said gasoline was selling for $2.37 a gallon on average across the country, four cents more than a week ago.

Whether prices rise further depends on the damage ultimately sustained by refineries in the Texas Gulf Coast area, said Jeanette Casselano, an AAA spokeswoman. “The situation is still pretty fluid,” she said.

The affected refineries represent about 12 percent of the nation’s refining capacity, according to a report by Goldman Sachs.

Ms. Casselano noted that oil companies had ample stocks of oil and gasoline, which should limit the chances of immediate shortages. “Throughout the country we have high levels of supplies,” she said. “There’s a lot of gasoline in bulk storage in Houston, but right now you can’t get to it.”

Lining up to get boats in the water.

An exit ramp on Beltway 8, a freeway that encircles Houston, has become an impromptu boat ramp.

Coast Guard vehicles, state troopers in sport utility vehicles and a raft of amateur rescuers in trucks used the ramp as a kind of staging area, backing trailers into the floodwaters and sending boats speeding off toward houses in the distance, in a flooded area opposite the Sheldon Reservoir a few miles from Bush Intercontinental Airport.

John Malbrough, 35, steered his 14-foot ski boat through the waters and tied up at the side of the ramp and took a smoke break. He said he had lost count of how many men, women and children he had ferried over to the ramp from the flooded houses.

“There’s probably 50 boats out there, and everybody’s just running back and forth grabbing people — families, individuals, old people, dogs, cats,” said Mr. Malbrough, a mechanic with a shaved head and tattoo-covered arms who lives in nearby Humble. “I’m out of gas now — I’ve got to go get some gas and come back.” — MANNY FERNANDEZ in Houston

Here are some ways to help.

Donations to the Red Cross for those affected by Harvey can be made online or text HARVEY to 90999.

Donations to the Salvation Army can be made online.

Catholic Charities is accepting donations online or text CCUSADISASTER to 71777 to donate.

Airbnb is waiving all service fees for those affected by the disaster and checking in between Aug. 23 and Sept. 1.

If you’d like to help feed people in the region, websites for the Houston Food Bank, the Galveston County Food Bank and the Corpus Christi Food Bank take online donations. Read more.

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Top Trump Organization executive asked Putin aide for help on business deal – Washington Post

By , and ,

A top executive from Donald Trump’s real estate company emailed Vladi­mir Putin’s personal spokesman during the U.S. presidential campaign last year to ask for help advancing a stalled Trump Tower development project in Moscow, according to documents submitted to Congress Monday.

Michael Cohen, a Trump attorney and executive vice president for the Trump Organization, sent the email in January 2016 to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top press aide.

“Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower – Moscow project in Moscow City,” Cohen wrote Peskov, according to a person familiar with the email. “Without getting into lengthy specifics the communication between our two sides has stalled.”

“As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon,” Cohen wrote.

Cohen’s email marks the most direct interaction yet documented of a top Trump aide and a similarly senior member of Putin’s government.

The email shows the Trump business official directly seeking Kremlin assistance in advancing Trump’s business interests, in the same months when Trump was distinguishing himself on the campaign trail with his warm rhetoric about Putin.

In a statement Cohen submitted to Congressional investigators, he said he wrote the email at the recommendation of Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who was serving as a broker on the deal.

In the statement, obtained by the Washington Post, Cohen said Sater suggested the outreach because a massive Trump development in Moscow would require Russian government approval. He said he did not recall receiving a response from Peskov and the project was abandoned two weeks later.

Cohen has been one of Trump’s closest aides for more than a decade. He did not take a formal role in the campaign however sometimes spoke to reporters on Trump’s behalf and appeared on television as a surrogate while Trump was running.

“It should come as no surprise that, over four decades, the Trump Organization has received and reviewed countless real estate development opportunities, both domestic and international,” Cohen said in a statement to the Post. “The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected.”

He said he abandoned the project because he lost confidence the Moscow developer would be able to obtain land, financing and government approvals to complete the project. “It was a building proposal that did not succeed and nothing more,” he said.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Cohen had been in negotiations with Sater to attempt to build a Trump Tower in the Russian capital from September 2015 through the end of January 2016, as Trump was competing for the Republican nomination for president.

Cohen told Congressional investigators that the deal was envisioned as a licensing project, in which Trump would have been paid for the use of his name by a Moscow-based developer called I.C. Expert Investment Company. Cohen said that Trump signed a letter of intent with the company on October 28, 2015 and began to solicit designs from architects and discuss financing.

However, he said government permission was not forthcoming and the project was abandoned “for business reasons.”

“The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign,” Cohen wrote in his statement to Congressional investigators. “The decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it were unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign.”

Cohen told Congressional investigators that Sater “constantly” pushed him to travel to Moscow as part of the negotiations, but that he declined to do so. He claimed Sater, who has attempted to broker Trump deals for more than a decade, was “prone to ‘salesmanship,’” and, as a result, he did not routinely apprise others in the company about their interactions and never considered asking Trump to go to Moscow, as Sater had requested.

Lawyers for the Trump Organization, Sater and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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‘Please don’t give up on us,’ Houston police chief says amid disaster response – Washington Post

By and ,

Jabin Botsford

The Washington Post

Volunteers rescue people from their flooded homes along Beamer Road in Houston on Sunday.

The massive tropical storm that stalled over Texas has triggered a massive governmental response, but there is no question that Harvey still has the upper hand. First responders have been overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

“Please don’t give up on us. None of us are going to give up,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference Monday.

The head of Houston’s 911 emergency system, Joe Laud, said the average number of callers on hold hoping to speak to an operator had dropped to 10 Monday morning after hitting 250 during the height of Sunday’s flooding. He said the system had handled 75,000 calls. Don’t hang up — he implored residents — stay on the line.

“We are processing the calls and hopefully help will be on the way,” Laud said.

Harvey, still churning near the Texas coast and now throwing rain bands deep into Louisiana, has exposed what Houstonians already knew: Their city, the nation’s fourth largest, was a disastrous flood just waiting to happen.

[Harvey may force 30,000 people into shelters, officials warn]

But Harvey has also raised questions about how federal, state and local agencies should prepare for, and respond to, natural disasters. There were mixed messages from the state capital and Houston’s City Hall about whether to evacuate millions of people in advance of Harvey’s landfall, when it was a Category 4 hurricane.

Having learned lessons from Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ­pre-positioned many of its personnel in advance of the storm, as did the Red Cross and other organizations. But when the floodwaters rose, people were still largely on their own. Some rode to shelters or hospitals in the back of city garbage trucks while others waded through chest-deep water on foot.

A neighborhood in Friendswood, Tex., was so heavily flooded by Hurricane Harvey that some people are using boats to travel through it.

FEMA said Monday that it already made major deployments of people and resources to Texas, including about 900 personnel in search-and-rescue teams, a million liters of water, a million meals, 20,520 tarps and 70 generators. FEMA is coordinating a response that includes the National Emergency Medical Services, which is deploying 100 ambulances and 15 air ambulances out of San Antonio. FEMA has 1,800 personnel deployed in total along with 341 personnel from the Department of Homeland Security.

Leaders of the federal response to the Hurricane Harvey disaster had an early-morning news conference Monday in Washington that was by turns a declaration of competence, an expression of grave concern and a plea for the public’s help.

“Under the president’s direction, we have made every resource available to respond to this historic storm,” said Elaine Duke, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who added that on Tuesday she will accompany President Trump on a visit to Texas, where he plans to tour flood-ravaged areas.

[Rains from Harvey obliterate records, flood disaster to expand]

Joining Duke at FEMA headquarters were William B. “Brock” Long, the FEMA administrator; Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service; Tom Price, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; and Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard.

Long, preparing to fly to Texas as soon as the news conference was over, said the situation in Texas was not yet a “recovery” operation but rather still a “life-safety” operation in which a primary focus will be taking care of what he estimates will be 30,000 people needing shelter. He later said that all estimated numbers are likely to change every 30 minutes.

“We’ve got to get them into shelters,” he said. “This shelter mission is going to be a very heavy lift.”

He echoed comments he has made in interviews with The Washington Post in recent weeks: Disaster recovery starts and ends at the local level.

“Right now, here’s what I need you to know. Helping Texas overcome this disaster is going to be far greater than FEMA coordinating the mission of the entire federal government. We need citizens to be involved,” he said. “This is a landmark event. We have not seen an event like this. You could not draw this forecast up. You could not dream this forecast up.

“I’m asking for all citizens to get involved here. Donate your money. Figure out how you can get involved as we help Texas find a new normal going forward after this devastating disaster.”

Long deflected questions about whether Houston should have been evacuated.

“It’s not a time to start pointing blame,” he said, noting that Houston is a city with millions of people and not a place easily evacuated. “Pulling the trigger on that’s an in­cred­ibly difficult situation.”

Uccellini said Southeast Texas still faces another 15 to 20 inches of rain, but he cautioned that forecasting the storm is difficult. Harvey hit Texas late Friday and, as the National Hurricane Center predicted, came to a virtual halt. He said the center of circulation then migrated to a point over Matagordo Island, a barrier island on the Gulf Coast, not far from where Harvey made landfall Friday with 130 mph sustained winds.

Zukunft pointed out that search-and-rescue operations in this case are hampered by the continued presence of a storm that is producing heavy rain over a large area.

“We’re still operating in the midst of a tropical storm,” Zukunft said. “We have thrown every Coast Guard asset available at this response. But there are conditions where it’s just not safe to fly.”

Retired Adm. Thad Allen, who played a key role in shoring up the initially weak federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and then served as national incident commander for the gulf oil spill in 2010, said government agencies seem to be doing their best in an extremely complex situation that is huge in scale.

“I’m not sure how much more you can ask for,” Allen said. “If you have more total fires than you have firemen, the scale, complexity and scope becomes a risk aggregator. The demand signal for what you do far outweighs the resources you have.”

But second-guessing is rampant about whether officials in Houston should have ordered evacuations.

NICK OXFORD

REUTERS

Evacuees are transported Sunday to the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

Michael Brown — who ran FEMA under President George W. Bush, and was criticized for the agency’s response during Katrina — said local officials should have done more to encourage people to voluntarily leave ahead of the storm.

“I think it would have been wise, it may have been smart to get in front of the media and talk about, ‘Here’s what I’m being told. We’re not going to order a mandatory evacuation, but our advice is, if you can leave now, you should leave,’ ” Brown said. “Is it better to be stuck in Dallas than to be stuck in the Houston convention center? Personally, for me I’d rather be stuck in Dallas than with 5,000 people in a convention center.”

[Storm victims take shelter at Houston’s convention center]

Weather forecasters knew Tuesday that the tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico might blow up into a hurricane, and by Thursday morning, they knew it might turn into a storm with winds that would rate it as the most powerful to hit Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961. But on Sunday, there were elderly people still in nursing homes in places barely above sea level, many hauled to safety by the desperate efforts of ordinary citizens in private boats.

“It’s really the poor and vulnerable population that needs to be shifted to shelters, and all that needs to be done in advance,” said Patrick Roberts, a Virginia Tech professor who teaches about disaster response and is a native of Victoria, Tex.

Social media proved to be crucial piece of infrastructure during the storm. The national and local news media covered the unfolding disaster extensively, but social media allowed residents to figure out how their own neighborhoods were faring, who needed help and who had a boat or some other resource to deploy.

Two aspects of FEMA’s initial response bear the hallmarks of post-Katrina reforms. First, the agency deployed hundreds of personnel into Texas ahead of the storm to be in position to respond faster after the storm passed.

“That was the authority we got post-Katrina that FEMA could begin pre-deploying and spending money prior to a request from a governor if an event has occurred or is likely to occur requiring federal assistance,” W. Craig Fugate, the FEMA administrator under President Barack Obama, explained. “It’s part of the reason we have our regional office. We see something like this coming, FEMA will get those teams into those states and if we start getting the potential impacts, we’ll set up an incident staging base and start moving supplies and resources before the storm gets there. Hurricanes are one of the few things we can do that for.”

Fugate also said that he’s proud to see the swift deployment of FEMA’s urban search-and-rescue teams that are now equipped to handle water rescues. Previously when FEMA deployed search-and-rescue teams, “they weren’t equipped for water rescues. I was asking the question, ‘Why not?’ So, in the Obama administration we began equipping urban search-and-rescue teams with swift water rescue capabilities. The first time we actually used that was last year during the response to Hurricane Matthew in Fort Bragg and surrounding communities.”

Fugate and Brown said FEMA and other federal agencies never contemplated or rehearsed for urban flooding on such a massive scale. Fugate declined to offer a review of how the response has gone so far.

Brown said he believes that the response has been “really good, but I’m still disappointed that Americans haven’t learned that Mother Nature is going to do what Mother Nature does.”

Jason McNamara, a former FEMA chief of staff, said Long is taking the right approach so far — in part by not fighting with local and state officials.

“When you start getting folks above you questioning where you’re going with things or what you’re doing, things tend to fall apart very quickly,” McNamara said. “If he screws up, that’s one thing. But I don’t see that. I see him doing what he needs to do.”

He said of Texas officials: “They’re overwhelmed by life-safety missions. Very quickly you’re going to get behind the curve on what comes next week. The other thing? Schools. How do we get the schools open and kids back to school? If they can’t go back to school, the parents can’t go to work and that creates another economic problem.”

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Trump Reverses Restrictions on Military Hardware for Police – New York Times

WASHINGTON — Police departments will now have access to military surplus equipment typically used in warfare, including grenade launchers, armored vehicles and bayonets, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Monday, describing it as “lifesaving gear.”

The move rescinds limits on the Pentagon handouts that were put in place by President Barack Obama in 2015 amid a national debate over policing touched off by a spate of high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of the police, including the shooting death in 2014 of 18-year-old Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., by a white officer. Some local residents viewed police use of military equipment during the ensuing protests as an unnecessary show of force and intimidation.

In a speech to the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Mr. Sessions said Mr. Obama had made it harder for the police to protect themselves and their neighborhoods.

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“Those restrictions went too far,” Mr. Sessions said. “We will not put superficial concerns above public safety.”

Mr. Sessions said that President Trump would sign an executive order on Monday fully restoring the military program, called 1033, and that the president was doing “all he can to restore law and order and support our police across the country.”

Mr. Sessions has rolled back a number of Obama-era efforts toward police reform. In April, he ordered a sweeping review of federal agreements with dozens of law enforcement agencies, including consent decrees with troubled police departments nationwide.

Mr. Obama ordered a review of the Pentagon program in late 2014 after the police responded to protests with armored vehicles, snipers and riot gear. The images of police officers with military gear squaring off against protesters around the country angered community activists who said law enforcement agencies were reacting disproportionately.

In addition to the prohibitions on certain military surplus gear, he added restrictions on transferring some weapons and devices, including explosives, battering rams, riot helmets and shields.

The program was started in the 1990s as a way for the military to transfer surplus equipment to federal, state and local police agencies fighting the drug war. More than $5 billion in surplus gear has been funneled to law enforcement agencies.

Local law enforcement officials have defended the program, saying that it is a way to acquire equipment that is useful in dangerous situations without stretching tight budgets. For example, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, the site of severe flooding in recent days, received two armored vehicles under the program. One was used for high-risk operations and the other for high-water rescues.

Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under Mr. Obama, criticized Mr. Trump’s policy reversal. She said the limits were created to make sure police departments “had a guardian, not warrior, mentality.”

“Our communities are not the same as armed combatants in a war zone,” Ms. Gupta said in a statement. “It is especially troubling that some of this equipment can now again be used in schools where our children are sent to learn.”

Trump’s decision angered community activists and some Republicans. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said in a tweet: “I will oppose this move by the AG and administration. And I will continue to fight for our civil liberties and criminal justice reform.”

After learning about changes to the program, an animated Representative Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina, said, “Are you kidding me?” Mr. Sanford recalled traveling to a small South Carolina county when he was governor and finding a sheriff taking helicopter lessons because, Mr. Sanford noted, the jurisdiction had “pulled about seven copters” thanks to the federal program.

“This makes my blood boil,” he said, from “both a taxpayer standpoint and a civil liberties standpoint.”

Administration officials defended the restoration of the program, saying the police need all the tools available to do their jobs.

In a set of talking points distributed ahead of the announcement, the Justice Department noted that a military-style helmet saved the life of an officer responding to last year’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., in which a gunman killed 49. Armored vehicles and military gear were also used to hunt the two terrorists who mounted an attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015.

The document says much of the equipment provided through the 1033 program is “entirely defensive in nature.”

But it is not clear why the police need bayonets, which the talking points did not address. Even the Pentagon has said it does not understand why the police would require them. Trump administration officials said that the police believed bayonets were handy, for instance, in cutting seatbelts in an emergency.

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Trump’s long history of seeking a politically inconvenient business deal in Russia – Washington Post


President Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg. (Evan Vucci/AP)

On Sunday night, The Post reported that President Trump’s private business was actively pursuing a real estate deal in Russia in late 2015, only to abandon it shortly before the 2016 presidential primaries. The revelation adds a new layer of context to Trump’s repeated insistence over the past year that he has no business ties to the country, suggesting that his avowed indifference toward making money in Russia was a function less of resolve than of circumstance.

Broadly, Trump’s attitude toward business in Russia mirrors his behavior when it comes to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Before he was a political candidate, Trump repeatedly said that he had a relationship with the Russian president. (Among the examples he cited as evidence he knew Putin? They were both on the same episode of “60 Minutes” — though Trump was filmed in the United States and Putin in Russia.) After that relationship became politically inconvenient, his tune changed sharply. In the third presidential debate, he preemptively responded to a question about Russian interference in the election by saying, “I don’t know Putin.”

As we did with Trump’s claims about knowing Putin, in light of the most recent Post reporting it’s worth reviewing Trump’s long history of seeking a business deal in Russia — and his change in tune once such a deal would no longer be personally helpful.

We begin at the beginning.

1987

Trump — and his business, the Trump Organization — explores opening a hotel in Moscow while the country was still under Communist control.

1990

In an interview with Playboy, he explains why that project didn’t work.

“I told them, ‘Guys, you have a basic problem. Far as real estate is concerned, it’s impossible to get title to Russian land, since the government owns it all. What kind of financing are you gonna get on a building where the land is owned by the goddamned motherland?’

They said, ‘No problem, Mr. Trump. We will work out lease arrangements.’

I said, ‘I want ownership, not leases.’

They came up with a solution: ‘Mr. Trump, we form a committee with ten people, of which seven are Russian and three are your representatives, and all disputes will be resolved in this manner.’

I thought to myself, [S—], seven to three–are we dealing in the world of the make-believe here or what?

Despite that concern, Trump warned of an imminent revolution in the country because premier Mikhail Gorbachev was too lenient.

“I was very unimpressed” with Russia, he said. “Their system is a disaster. What you will see there soon is a revolution; the signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.”

China, by contrast, did it right.

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square,” Trump explained, “the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

1996

Trump announces a $250 million investment in two residential buildings in Moscow near the old Olympic Stadium. At a news conference, he says that he has never been as “impressed with the potential of a city as I have been with Moscow,” according to the New York Times. The deal is never finalized.

That same year, he is granted a number of trademarks for real estate property in the country.

1999

Putin becomes president of Russia.

2005

Working with a longtime business partner named Felix Sater, Trump explores building a high-rise on the site of an old pencil factory. Sater ran the Bayrock Group, once a real estate development firm located in Trump Tower.

Sater, who was also involved in the project outlined in the new Post’s report, is cooperating with an international investigation into money laundering, according to the Financial Times.

2007

During a deposition about the Bayrock Group, Trump addresses his interest in investing in Russia.

“It’s ridiculous that I wouldn’t be investing in Russia,” he said. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment. … We will be in Moscow at some point.”

2008

In an interview linked to a conference about real estate investments in developing countries, Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. explains the Trump Organization’s relationship with Russian investors.

“In terms of high-end product influx into the US,” he says, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets … We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

That same year, Trump sells a house in Palm Beach, Fla. to a Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million. Trump had purchased the house for $40 million in 2004.

2013

The Trump Organization, which owns the Miss Universe pageant, announces that the pageant will be held in Moscow that November.

Trump’s enthusiasm about the event spurs a number of tweets. Among them are ones praising Putin.

Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2013

Re Miss Universe Pageant, we’ve spoken w/the LGBT community in Russia who asked “please don’t leave, it would send the wrong signal.”

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2013

Putin’s letter is a masterpiece for Russia and a disaster for the U.S. He is lecturing to our President.Never has our Country looked to weak

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2013

@TimTMahar: @realDonaldTrump when you leave Russia, please bring back some leaders!” Interesting!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2013

I just got back from Russia-learned lots & lots. Moscow is a very interesting and amazing place! U.S. MUST BE VERY SMART AND VERY STRATEGIC.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2013

For the pageant, Trump partners with a developer named Aras Agalarov and his son, Emin, who has a side job as a musician. Trump stars in one of Emin’s music videos.

Emin from Russia–a very talented guy. All proceeds go to help the Philippines. @eminofficial#missuniversehttp://t.co/Y6TJL7znRD

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2013

As part of the pageant media circus, Trump tells the Russian-government-operated RT: “I have plans for the establishment of business in Russia. Now, I am in talks with several Russian companies to establish this skyscraper.” That includes the Agalarov’s company, Crocus Group, but this, too, comes to nothing.

Via @MoscowTimes Donald Trump Planning Skyscraper in Moscow http://t.co/ubiHDd5sqr

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2013

September 2015

Discussions about a new project in Moscow begin, according to Post reporting. The project is driven by Sater.

Later that month, Trump appears on journalist Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. The subject of business dealings in Russia is raised in the context of the 2013 pageant.

“[T]wo years ago, I was in Moscow. And a lot of the people, Hugh, they were there, and they had an amazing time. And they’re terrific people. You know, I was getting along with them so great. I really loved my weekend, I called it my weekend in Moscow. But I was with the top level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top of the government people. I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.”

January 2016

The proposed project comes to nothing.

“Although investors and Trump’s company signed a letter of intent,” The Post reports, “they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned.”

In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Sater blames the campaign for killing the project. “Once the campaign was really going-going, it was obvious there were going to be no deals internationally,” he told TPM’s Sam Thielman.

June

Emin Agalarov helps facilitate a meeting between a lawyer linked to the Russian government and the Trump campaign, predicated on dirt the Russian government dug up on Hillary Clinton.

July

With emails from the Democratic National Committee that were allegedly stolen by the Russians being shared by WikiLeaks, questions about Trump’s relationship to Russia take on a new urgency.

At his last news conference before the election, Trump is repeatedly asked about business deals in Russia.

He says he will release tax returns that prove he had no business in the country — once the returns are out of audit. He goes on:

“I built an unbelievable company, tremendous cash, tremendous company with some of the great assets of the world. You’ve seen it. You were all very disappointed when you saw it actually but that’s okay. Far, far greater than anybody ever thought. I have a great company. I built an unbelievable company but if you look there you’ll see there’s nothing in Russia.” …

“No, I have nothing to do with Russia, John (ph). How many times do I have say that? Are you a smart man? I have nothing to with Russia, I have nothing to do with Russia. And even — for anything. What do I have to do with Russia? You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida.” …

“Excuse me, listen. We wanted to; we were doing Miss Universe four or five years ago in Russia. It was a tremendous success. Very, very successful. And there were developers in Russia that wanted to put a lot of money into developments in Russia. And they wanted us to do it. But it never worked out. Frankly I didn’t want to do it for a couple of different reasons. But we had a major developer, particular, but numerous developers that wanted to develop property in Moscow and other places. But we decided not to do it.”

He doesn’t mention the project described by Sater.

October

During the second presidential debate, the subject comes up again.

“I know nothing about Russia — I know about Russia, but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don’t deal there, I have no businesses there, I have no loans from Russia. I have a very very great balance sheet. So great that when I did the old post office, on Pennsylvania Avenue, the United States government because of my balance sheet, which they actually know very well, chose me to do the old post office between the White House and Congress. They chose me to do the old post office — one of the primary things, in fact, perhaps the primary thing was balance sheet. But I have no loans with Russia.”

Nov. 8

Trump is elected president. The same day, four Trump Organization trademarks in Russia are renewed.

Early 2017

With new revelations about Russian interference in the 2016 election emerging, Trump repeatedly denies any link to the country.

Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017

I don’t know Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy – yet Obama can make a deal with Iran, #1 in terror, no problem!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2017

May

Trump has his attorneys release a summary of his business dealings with Russia.

“…[Y]our tax returns do not reflect (1) and income of any type from Russian sources,” the letter reads, “(2) any debt owed by you or [The Trump Organization (TTO)] to Russian lenders or any interest paid by you or TTO to Russian lenders, (3) and equity investments by Russian persons or entities in entities controlled by you or TTO, or (4) any equity or debt investments by you or TTO in Russian entities.”

But the first part of that paragraph is what seizes the public’s imagination: That lack of business dealings holds true, the lawyers say, “[w]ith few exceptions.”

The exceptions are the sale of the house in Palm Beach and the Miss Universe pageant. But that those were the only exceptions was not, it seems, for lack of trying.

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Missing pregnant woman’s body found wrapped in plastic, floating in river – kfor.com

HARWOOD, N.D. — The body of a North Dakota woman, who was eight-months pregnant when she was reported missing earlier this month, was found wrapped in plastic and floating in a river on Sunday, according to KVRR.

Savanna Greywind was eight-months pregnant when she left her family’s apartment on Aug. 19 to help an upstairs neighbor.

According to police, she never came home and the family reported her missing.

On Thursday, police found a healthy newborn baby inside that neighbor’s apartment. Brooke Crews, 38, and William Hoehn, 32, were arrested on kidnapping charges.

On Sunday, kayakers found a body-sized object wrapped in plastic caught on a log in the Red River. Authorities confirmed it was Greywind’s body.

Authorities are still working to confirm that the newborn baby is Greywind’s. However, the suspects told police the baby is Greywind’s, according to Inforum.

According to KVRR, Greywind did not know the neighbors well.

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Harvey flooding Harvey may force 30000 people into shelters while flooding will linger, officials warn – Washington Post

Hurricane Harvey struck Southeast Texas as a Category 4 storm Aug. 25. Texans now face catastrophic flooding, which is expected to worsen. (Elyse Samuels,Zoeann Murphy,Whitney Leaming,Kurt Kuykendall/The Washington Post)

HOUSTON — Rain pelted this battered city anew Monday as emergency teams — aided by a growing contingent of citizen-rescuers — plunged into waist-deep water seeking people stranded by devastating, historic flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

As forecasters warned of more rain, rising rivers and floodwaters that would swallow additional streets and neighborhoods, police described a vast rescue effort underway. About 2,000 people had been brought to safety with more still in need of help. Yet even with several deaths attributed to the storm, the full toll of Harvey’s destruction remained unclear in Houston and across Texas and Louisiana, with officials warning that the flooding would linger and saying more than 30,000 people would be forced from their homes.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” Elaine Duke, the acting Homeland Security secretary, said during a Monday morning briefing in Washington. “Harvey is still a dangerous and historic storm.”

Fears also grew beyond Texas, where the floodwater pounding this city and others was measured in feet, not inches. President Trump on Monday declared “emergency conditions” in Louisiana, where forecasts have called for as much as two feet of rainfall in some areas.

[‘Water is swallowing us up’: In Houston, desperate flood victims turn to social media for survival]

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) had asked Trump for an emergency disaster declaration, similar to one signed for Texas last week, saying that Harvey posed a “serious danger to life and property” in the state, which is just a year removed from a massive flood disaster. A flash flood watch was issued Monday morning for part of the state as well as part of Mississippi.

The immediate focus for many remained Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city and a sprawling metropolitan area, which faced dire circumstances and National Weather Service forecasts warning of more heavy rainfall.

Two reservoirs were opened to release water to relieve the stress the downpour has caused in the region, which has seen as much rain in a few days as it averages in an entire year.

“We are seeing catastrophic flooding, and this will likely expand and it will likely persist as it’s slow to recede,” Louis W. Uccellini, the NWS director, said at the Monday morning briefing.

Parts of Harris County, which encompasses Houston, were pelted with 30 inches of rain in the past 72 hours, the Weather Service reported early Monday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said authorities in his state are focusing on “saving lives” as Harvey continues to pound Texas on Aug. 27. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

The Weather Service said Harvey’s rain is causing “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding over large portions of southeastern Texas,” and it warned of more agony to come, estimating that Harvey could produce up to an additional 25 inches of rainfall through Friday along the upper Texas coast and part of Louisiana. Some areas in Texas could see as much as 50 inches of rain in total, forecasters said.

“We have not seen an event like this,” William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Monday morning at a news briefing. “You could not draw this forecast up. You could not dream this forecast up.”

The National Hurricane Center said Monday that Harvey is expected to gradually shift on Tuesday before its center moves “just offshore of the middle and upper coasts of Texas through Tuesday night.” Harvey could make a second landfall northeast of Houston in Texas on Wednesday, but forecasters say that will not necessarily lead to a repeat of the damaging rain that pummeled the city.

Authorities in Texas fielded scores of calls for help throughout the night from people stranded by water, although many areas had imposed curfew overnight Sunday in hopes of cutting down on the number in need of being rescued from vehicles. Help was pouring in from swift-water rescue teams from around the country.


Moses Juarez, left, and Anselmo Padilla wade through floodwaters. (David J. Phillip/AP)

The Houston police dispatched officers on boats that were sent through streets where the floodwater reached the pumps at gas stations. While urging residents to stay off the roads, police have asked people with high-water vehicles and boats to assist in rescue efforts.

In Houston, the fire department responded to more 4,000 water-related calls for service. Police rescued 2,000 people in the city, and another 185 critical rescue requests were still pending, Art Acevedo, the Houston police chief, said at a news briefing Monday.

“The goal is rescue,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at the briefing. “That’s the major focus for the day.”

Acevedo also disputed social media claims suggesting that looting had erupted in the city, saying that police had arrested four people for attempting to loot.

Across Houston and suburbs many miles away, families scrambled to get out of fast-flooding homes. Rescuers, in many cases neighbors rescuing one another, used fishing boats, huge dump trucks and front-end loaders to battled driving rains.

[Neighborhood hero leads flood rescue missions]

In downtown Houston, some of the floodwater had receded. The swollen Brays Bayou had gone down several feet overnight, while some streets that had been flooded were dry as the sun rose over Houston.

Abandoned cars were left in intersections and alongside roads, and in one case, a school bus had been parked on a high grassy area and left behind. A brief respite overnight had given way to people wandering the streets in the morning, looking at the scattered debris. A woman wearing hospital scrubs, knee-high rubber boots and a backpack, carrying an umbrella, trekked through the water toward a hospital.

But by midmorning Monday, a hard rain had begun to fall again.

The shelter at the M.O. Campbell Center in North Houston had begun turning people away Sunday evening, leaving hundreds stranded, according to local emergency officials.

All day, local fire departments, the Army Reserves and good Samaritans had brought people from their flooded homes to a fire station before transporting them to the M.O. Campbell shelter. But when it reached capacity, the shelter’s doors were shut, and at least 300 people were stranded at the fire station.

[Here’s how you can help South Texas residents affected by Harvey]

The firefighters put a call out for help, asking if anyone could take the evacuees in. One local youth pastor answered the call. The rescue teams picked up Pastor David McDougle, 26, and his wife from their flooded home so they could open the First Baptist Church North Houston as a makeshift shelter for those stranded.

McDougle said he got a call Sunday evening asking if he would let evacuees sleep at the church, so he and his wife took all the food and water they had gotten and brought it to the church.

Though they now have a roof over their heads, the church is not a designated shelter and has no food or water for the evacuees. The church reached capacity with nearly 300 people laying on the floor of the gym, and the food supply ran out around 5 a.m. People are nervous to drink tap water. The restrooms at the church will not flush, creating a mess of the place.

“It’s frustrating, but I’m just relying on God to fulfill his promises to us,” McDougle said. “We’re all praying.”

[Devastating flooding after Harvey will get worse before it gets better]

The Brazos River, which runs southwest of Houston, is expected to reach record heights in the coming days. National Weather Service models showed the river rising to 59 feet by Tuesday, topping the previous record of 54.7 feet.

Early Monday morning, the Fort Bend Office of Emergency Management issued voluntary and mandatory evacuation orders for wide areas along dozens of miles of Brazos River banks. River banks are expected to overflow across that part of the state as trillions of gallons of rainfall runoff consolidates over coming days.

“A 59-foot river level threatens to over top many of the levees in out area,” said Fort County Judge Robert Hebert. “It exceeds the design specifications of our levees.”

Herbert said anyone who ignores mandatory evacuation orders — issued for an area that includes a part of Houston with sprawling mansions — will not be aided by first responders when the waters rise.

[Rains from Harvey obliterate records, flood disaster to expand]

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday activated the entire Texas National Guard in response to the storm, pushing the total deployment to 12,000, his office said.

“It is imperative that we do everything possible to protect the lives and safety of people across the state of Texas as we continue to face the aftermath of this storm,” Abbott said in a statement.

On Monday, the Pentagon said that active duty units were heading to staging areas in anticipation of a formal request for help, saying national guard units from across the country had readied cargo jets, Black Hawk helicopters and others to help with the response. In addition, a Pentagon search and rescue team was deploying to Fort Worth, Tex., to help, according to spokesman U.S. Army Col. Robert Manning.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said federal agencies have more than 5,000 employees working in Texas, and the White House said Trump plans to visit parts of the state on Tuesday.

The devastation that evoked Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans was also reverberating around the world from the Houston area’s large international community. In India, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj posted a tweet Monday saying 200 Indian students were “marooned.”

“They are surrounded by neck deep water,” she wrote.

[Cost of clean up a test for Trump and GOP]

Officials said Houston, a major center for the nation’s energy industry, had suffered billions of dollars in damage and would take years to fully recover. Oil and gas companies have shut down about a quarter of their production in the Gulf of Mexico. Spot prices for gasoline are expected to jump on Monday, but the full extent of damage will not be clear for days, companies and experts said.

Harvey’s sheer size also became apparent Sunday as heavy rains and flooding were reported as far away as Austin and even Dallas. What started with a direct impact on the tiny coastal town of Rockport on Friday night turned into a weather disaster affecting thousands of square miles and millions of people — with no clear end in sight.

The Texas National Guard has deployed across the state, including engineers in Corpus Christi and an infantry search-and-rescue team in Rockport. Another search-and-rescue unit was staging in San Antonio and was likely to be deployed to affected areas shortly, officials said.

[FEMA director calls storm a ‘devastating disaster,’ says it could be the worst in Texas history]

As the extent of the disaster became sharper, some criticized Houston officials for not calling for an evacuation of the city.

Turner had defended the decision not to evacuate, noting that it would be a “nightmare” to empty out the population of his city and the county all at once.

Trump has praised the way officials were handling the flood, and he signed a disaster proclamation for Texas on Friday night after Abbott made a dire request warning that the storm would be deadly and lead to billions in damages.

At a news conference on Monday, Aug. 28, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long defended the city’s decision not to evacuate its residents ahead of Harvey’s catastrophic flooding. (The Washington Post)

Both of Houston’s major airports were closed, and many tourists and visitors found themselves stranded in hotels with no hope of leaving anytime soon. While Houston was spared Harvey’s initial onslaught, disaster suddenly beset the city, as severe storms Saturday evening gave way to flooding Sunday morning.

The Weather Service said Sunday that at least five people had been reported dead because of Harvey. Local officials have confirmed that at least three people have died as a result of the storm, and officials in the hardest-hit counties expect that as the waters recede the number of fatalities will rise.

As it scrambled to open shelters across Texas, the Red Cross command center in Houston was “physically isolated” because of floodwaters, said Paul Carden, district director of Red Cross activities in South Texas, which includes Corpus Christi.

“The advice is, if you don’t have to be out, don’t be out,” said Bill Begley, a spokesman with the Joint Information Center in Houston. He said most of the calls for help the center had received had come from residents who tried to drive through the storm and got stuck in high water.

In some cases, people could not wait. Early Monday morning, a man came running into the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard hotel in Southwest Houston. He said he had a pregnant woman in his truck who was about to deliver.

Crystal Manker, the hotel’s operations manager, was shocked enough that anyone made it to the hotel, which had been surrounded by deep, impassable floodwaters and abandoned, submerged cars since the night before. Nobody had gotten in or out for 24 hours. But hotel staff went with the man through the swamped parking lot, and finally into waist-deep water where his truck had stalled, with a pregnant woman and her husband inside.

The man said he had seen the husband’s desperate call on Twitter that his wife was in labor and they couldn’t get out of their home. It was close by, so he and a friend drove through the deep water and picked them up. They started toward Texas Children’s Hospital, but as they got closer to the overflowed Brays Bayou, the water became too deep to pass.

As their truck started stalling, saw the Courtyard, which is on the banks of the Bray, and ran inside to get help. Manker said she called 911, and got through after ten minutes. She told the operator the woman’s contractions were eight minutes apart, and the operator told her to call back when they got closer.

At that point Manker said the baby seemed destined to be born in a hurricane-marooned Marriott, so she and her staff rolled a bed into a ground-floor meeting room. They hurried in with sheets, towels, water, pillows and scissors.

Manker remembered that three nurses from Louisiana had been relocated to the hotel. She called them and they rushed down — even though none of them had ever delivered a baby.

As the mother-to-be lay in the bed in the meeting room for more than an hour, Manker called 911 again and told the operator contractions were down to two minutes apart. The nurses were getting ready.

Then a huge city dump truck appeared. Several men helped the woman into the truck, which then headed off into the 4-foot deep water, across the swamped bridge across the bayou and toward the hospital.

Maker was still waiting for word Monday morning on how everything went. She was most amazed at the men who answered the Twitter call for help.

“They had to be her angel,” she said.

Employees of Houston’s KHOU 11 News station had to evacuate their newsroom on Aug. 27 due to flooding as Harvey continued to pound Southeast Texas. (Stephanie Kuzydym)

Sullivan reported from Houston and Berman reported from Washington. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux in Katy, Tex.; Angela Fritz, Robert Samuels, Fred Barbash, Derek Hawkins, Brian Murphy, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Susan Hogan, Wesley Lowery and Steven Mufson in Washington; Annie Gowen in New Delhi; Justin Glawe in Dallas; Brittney Martin, Stephanie Kuzydym and Dylan Baddour in Houston; Tim Craig in Rockport and Corpus Christi; Ashley Cusick in New Orleans; Mary Lee Grant in Port Aransas, Tex.; and Sofia Sokolove in Austin contributed to this report.

Further reading:

‘All night of slam, bang, boom,’ then a scramble to assess the hurricane’s damage

A photo of a dog carrying a bag of food after a storm hit Texas went viral. Here’s his story.

How Hurricane Harvey will impact prices at the gas pump

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Trump to restore program sending surplus military weapons, equipment to police – Washington Post


A riot police officer aims his weapon while demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014. Images of a seemingly militarized police force spurred President Barack Obama to limit the distribution of military hardware to state and local police. (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

President Donald Trump plans to resume the transfer of surplus weapons, vehicles and other equipment from the nation’s military to its state and local law enforcement agencies, reviving a program which was sharply curtailed by President Barack Obama two years ago. The program launched in 1990 but was greatly limited after public reaction to images of heavily militarized police in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., and other sites of civil unrest.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is set to announce the move Monday morning at the Fraternal Order of Police convention in Nashville, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. The police union has lobbied for the restoration of the program, and Trump said he would do so during his campaign. The decision was first reported by USA Today.

The transfer of extra weapons and gear from the Defense Department occurred through the “1033 Program” created by Congress in 1990, originally for use in drug enforcement by federal and state law enforcement. But in 1997, the program was expanded to include all law enforcement agencies, though with a preference for those with anti-drug or anti-terrorism programs. The White House said the 1033 program had resulted in the transfer of more than $5.4 billion worth of surplus military equipment to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, to include armored vehicles, riot gear, rifles, ammunition and computers that had been scrapped by the Defense Department. Police paid nothing more than transportation or shipping costs to get the equipment.

But during the civil unrest that erupted after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in August 2014, many were troubled by scenes of oversized military vehicles and heavily armored police pointing high-powered rifles at protesters. The 1033 program received new scrutiny as public records showed how much military surplus had been distributed to local police nationally. In January 2015, President Obama created a working group to make recommendations to reform the program, which called for creating lists of “prohibited equipment” that could no longer be distributed to police and “controlled equipment” that could only be provided for a demonstrated need.

[Obama administration bans some military-style assault gear from local police departments]

The “prohibited equipment” included tracked armored vehicles and weaponized vehicles of any kind, rifles and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, and grenade launchers. The “controlled equipment” included any specialized firearms, manned and unmanned aircraft, explosives and riot gear. In 2016, the government began recalling previously-issued surplus gear that had been placed on the prohibited equipment list.

In a background paper prepared by the White House, the Trump administration cites two articlespublished this month in the American Economic Journal which found that distributing military weapons and equipment to civilian law enforcement had “generally positive effects” and “reduced street-level crime.” One of the studies calculated that for every $5,800 in military aid given to law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, society saved about $112,000 in costs due to prevented crime.

The Trump administration also notes that armored vehicles and other military gear were used to protect the officers who killed the perpetrators of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., and that a military-style helmet saved the life of an officer responding to the “Pulse” nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Fla.

In announcing the reduction of the program, Obama said in 2015 that “militarized gear sometimes gives people a feeling like [police] are an occupying force as opposed to a part of the community there to protect them..Some equipment made for the battlefield is not appropriate for local police departments.”

The White House background paper said Trump’s decision to fully restore the program “represents a policy shift toward ensuring officers have the tools they need to reduce crime and keep their communities safe. It sends the message that we care more about public safety than about how a piece of equipment looks, especially when that equipment has been shown to reduce crime, reduce complaints against and assaults on police, and makes officers more effective.”

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Harvey may force 30000 people into shelters while flooding will linger, officials warn – Washington Post

Hurricane Harvey struck Southeast Texas as a Category 4 storm Aug. 25. Texans now face catastrophic flooding, which is expected to worsen. (Elyse Samuels,Zoeann Murphy,Whitney Leaming,Kurt Kuykendall/The Washington Post)

HOUSTON — An ever-expanding swath of cities and towns across Texas, already reeling from historic flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, remained under siege Monday as forecasters warned of more pounding rain, rising rivers and floodwaters swallowing even more streets and neighborhoods.

Even as the storm had been blamed for several deaths, the full toll of the storm remained unclear. Officials warned that the danger was far from over, saying that the flooding in Texas is unlikely to recede quickly and that the storm will force more than 30,000 people from their homes.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” Elaine Duke, the acting Homeland Security secretary, said during a Monday morning briefing in Washington. “Harvey is still a dangerous and historic storm.”

Fears grew beyond Texas, where the floodwater pounding this city and others was measured in feet, not inches. In Louisiana, where forecasts called for as much as two feet of rainfall in some areas, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) asked President Trump for an emergency disaster declaration similar to one signed for Texas last week.

[Cost of cleaning up Harvey will bring new test of governance for Trump and GOP]

The immediate focus for many remained Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city and a sprawling metropolitan area, which faced dire circumstances and National Weather Service forecasts warning of more heavy rainfall. Two reservoirs were opened to release water to relieve the stress the downpour has caused in the region, which has seen as much rain in a few days as it averages in an entire year.

“We are seeing catastrophic flooding, and this will likely expand and it will likely persist as it’s slow to recede,” Louis W. Uccellini, the NWS director, said at the Monday morning briefing.

Parts of Harris County, which encompasses Houston, were pelted with 30 inches of rain in the past 72 hours, the NWS reported early Monday.


Moses Juarez, left, and Anselmo Padilla wade through floodwaters. (David J. Phillip/AP)

Authorities had fielded scores of calls for help throughout the night from people stranded by water, although many areas had imposed curfew overnight Sunday in hopes of cutting down on the number in need of being rescued from vehicles. Help was pouring in from swift-water rescue teams from around the country.

Across this city and suburbs many miles away, families scrambled to get out of their fast-flooding homes. Rescuers — in many cases neighbors helping neighbors — in fishing boats, huge dump trucks and even front-end loaders battled driving rains to move people to shelter. Some used inflatable toys to ferry their families out of inundated neighborhoods, wading through chest-deep water on foot while the ­region was under near-constant tornado watches.

[Neighborhood hero leads flood rescue missions]

The Brazos River, which runs southwest of Houston, is expected to reach record heights in the coming days. National Weather Service models showed the river rising to 59 feet by Tuesday, topping the previous record of 54.7 feet.

“A flood of this magnitude is an 800-year event, and it exceeds the design specification of our levees,” Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert said in a statement Monday.

The National Weather Service — which tweeted the “beyond anything experienced” description that morning — was predicting that parts of Texas could receive nearly 50 inches of rain, the largest recorded total in the state’s history. It also warned that Harvey’s relentless downpours were expected to continue until late in the week and that flooding could become much more severe. More than 82,000 homes were without electricity in the Houston area by Sunday night as airports shuttered and hospitals planned evacuations.

“We have not seen an event like this,” William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Monday morning at a news briefing. “You could not draw this forecast up. You could not dream this forecast up.”

Thousands of rescue missions have been launched across a large swath of Texas, and Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Sunday that more than 3,000 national and state guard troops had been deployed to assist with relief efforts. An additional 1,000 National Guard members will be sent to Houston on Monday, Abbott announced late Sunday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said federal agencies have more than 5,000 employees working in Texas, and the White House said President Trump plans to visit parts of the state on Tuesday.

The devastation was also reverberating around the world from the Houston area’s large international community. In India, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj posted a tweet Monday saying 200 Indian students were “marooned.”

“They are surrounded by neck deep water,” she wrote.

[Cost of clean up a test for Trump and GOP]

Officials said Houston, a major center for the nation’s energy industry, had suffered billions of dollars in damage and would take years to fully recover. Oil and gas companies have shut down about a quarter of their production in the Gulf of Mexico. Spot prices for gasoline are expected to jump on Monday, but the full extent of damage will not be clear for days, companies and experts said.

Harvey’s sheer size also became apparent Sunday as heavy rains and flooding were reported as far away as Austin and even Dallas. What started with a direct impact on the tiny coastal town of Rockport on Friday night has turned into a weather disaster affecting thousands of square miles and millions of people.

In Austin, the Wilhelmina Delco Center, one of two Red Cross shelters in the city, had about 200 evacuees. Rain continued to fall steadily in Austin on Sunday, and river levels continued to rise. Precautionary sandbags were stacked against the shelter’s entrance.

Bristel Minsker, communications director for the Red Cross Central and South Texas region, said “things are changing quickly” as the organization prepares to scale up operations in the areas between Austin and Houston.

Still, much of the nation’s focus remained squarely on Houston, where the massive scale of the flooding and the potential for it to get much worse in the days ahead were reminding many spooked residents of the effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and other officials pleaded with residents to “shelter in place” and to make calls to overwhelmed 911 operators only in life-threatening emergencies. They urged people to climb to their roofs to await shelter if water was rising in their homes, and local TV news anchors reminded people to stay out of attics where they might be trapped by water — or to take an ax to hack their way to the roof.

Police began to ask people with high-water vehicles and boats to assist in rescue efforts on streets where abandoned cars were completely submerged. Brays Bayou, a huge waterway crossing the southwestern part of the city, rose between 10 and 20 feet overnight and by Sunday morning was flowing over bridges in its path.

The Texas National Guard has deployed across the state, including engineers in Corpus Christi and an infantry search-and-rescue team in Rockport. Another search-and-rescue unit was staging in San Antonio and was likely to be deployed to affected areas shortly, officials said.

[FEMA director calls storm a ‘devastating disaster,’ says it could be the worst in Texas history]

As the extent of the disaster became clear at daylight Sunday, some criticized Houston officials for not calling for an evacuation of the city. Turner defended the decision not to evacuate, noting that it would be a “nightmare” to empty out the population of his city and the county all at once.

“You literally cannot put 6.5 million people on the road,” Turner said at a news conference.

Trump praised the way the city’s officials were handling the flood, tweeting at 8:25 a.m. that the “Good news is that we have great talent on the ground.” Trump signed a disaster proclamation for Texas on Friday night.

The disaster unfolding in Houston appeared suddenly, starting with severe storms Saturday evening that came with slashing, sideways rain and almost uninterrupted lightning. By morning, a city that had been largely spared by Harvey’s initial pounding of coastal communities was flooded to devastating levels.

The Weather Service said Sunday that at least five people had been reported dead because of Harvey. Local officials have confirmed that at least three people have died as a result of the storm, and officials in the hardest-hit counties expect that as the waters recede the number of fatalities will rise.

The first reported death came Saturday in Rockport. Officials said one person was killed after becoming stuck inside a house that caught fire during the storm.

About 9:15 p.m. on Saturday, rescuers in southwest Houston recovered the body of a woman thought to have driven her car into floodwaters before attempting to escape on foot. Just two minutes earlier, police about 40 miles southeast in La Marque found the body of a 52-year-old homeless man in a Walmart parking lot where there had been high water.

“No city can handle these kind of deluges. In our case, 23 inches overnight,” La Marque Mayor Bobby Hocking said Sunday, noting that the police department rescued approximately 30 families and brought them to city offices. “I have since secured hotel rooms for them. They were thankful and cried tears of joy,” he said.

As it scrambled to open shelters across Texas, the Red Cross command center in Houston was “physically isolated” because of floodwaters, said Paul Carden, district director of Red Cross activities in South Texas, which includes Corpus Christi.

“The advice is, if you don’t have to be out, don’t be out,” said Bill Begley, a spokesman with the Joint Information Center in Houston. He said most of the calls for help the center had received had come from residents who tried to drive through the storm and got stuck in high water.

Both of Houston’s major airports were closed, and many tourists and visitors found themselves stranded in hotels with no hope of leaving anytime soon.

[Catastrophic flooding ‘beyond anything experienced’ in Houston and ‘expected to worsen’]

Southwest Airlines flight attendant Allison Brown said at least 50 flight attendants, a number of pilots, airport staff and hundreds of passengers have been stranded at William P. Hobby Airport since at least 1 a.m. Sunday.

Brown said the airport flooded so quickly that shuttles were unable to get them out. They were told by police it would be unsafe to attempt to leave.

“Luckily, we have the restaurant staff, or else we would’ve been stuck with no food,” Brown said. “Waters in the road are around four feet — minimum — surrounding the airport.”

The Marriott Courtyard Hotel in southwest Houston, along the banks of Brays Bayou, was surrounded by floodwater when guests woke up Sunday morning.

All roads in the area were underwater, and a park across the bayou was completely flooded. A car nearby had been abandoned, its doors left open. City traffic lights were still blinking red and green over the empty and flooded bridge, but most buildings visible in the area seemed to be dark and without power.

Water covered about eight blocks on the edge of Houston’s downtown, entering the ground floors of the Wortham Center, a downtown theater, and the historic Lancaster Hotel, where staff members were still posted to ward off looters. A Chase bank branch was submerged in flowing water that reached almost to its roof.

By midmorning, Nichelle Mosby stood up to her knees in floodwater in the parking lot, grimacing with a towel over her head to block the rain. Mosby and six family members, including a 4-year-old girl, had come from Louisiana to visit relatives. When Harvey hit, they booked into the Courtyard. Now they were stranded with dozens of other guests.

“We went through Katrina, but this feels different,” she said. Instead of a gradual buildup of water, she said, “this was like a gush of water that came up too fast.”

In the lobby, John McMillian, 70, sat eating breakfast with his wife, Debbie McMillian, 64, and their daughter, Tara, 29.

They were in town so John McMillian could have five days of treatment for his leukemia at MD Anderson Cancer Center just down the road. He had three days of treatment and was supposed to have his fourth on Sunday, but now they were marooned.

“If push came to shove, we could always wade to the hospital,” he said.

“I’m not going to let him, don’t worry,” his wife added.

She said her new Acura was underwater in the parking lot.

“I haven’t even made the first payment on it yet,” she said.

Local television station KHOU went offline while covering the rescue of a driver in a semitrailer stuck in more than 10 feet of water near the Interstate 610 loop. The reporter was able to flag down a rescue crew, but as the rescue was about to take place, the station went dark. The main office said the station had to evacuate because floodwaters rushed into the building.

Local television and the Weather Channel showed rescues by boat, including in Dickinson, south of Houston on the way to Galveston, which appeared to be completely inundated.

“This place was built in 1976, and this has never happened,” the owner of a flooded RV park told a reporter. Asked where people would go once they were rescued from their RVs, she said, “I have no idea.”

About 500 displaced people are now living in two shelters in Dallas, 240 miles north of Houston.

In one, a neighborhood recreation center on the far south side of Dallas, Rebecca Hernandez, 35, said she and her family came from their north Houston home to avoid floodwaters. She, her husband, Gilbert, and their three children drove to Dallas on Friday night. With rent due in a few days, the family couldn’t afford to spend more than one night in a hotel, so they came here.

“We’re starting small,” said Angienetta Johnson, who runs the shelter, noting that there were perhaps 500 or so evacuees in her shelter and another one across town. “But we have plans to go up to 5,000 if need be.”

A neighbor has told Hernandez that floodwaters were at the family’s front door Sunday — just as they were during Katrina.

“We’re ready to go back as soon as they tell us it’s safe,” she said.

In Katy, Michele and Joel Antonini were in line at a cavernous HEB supermarket with 20 sacks of groceries. They had come out in the rain to buy food for neighbors they would probably be taking in from Grand Lakes, where they used to live.

They bought a sheet cake, a roast, chips, hot dogs and hamburgers.

“We just want to be ready if they are hungry and can get out,” Michele said. “We just want to be ready to help.”

Amanda Picard, 35, a CrossFit trainer, said that she lives behind a creek and that all the neighborhood lakes were flooded. She said she was doing a grocery run, picking up spring mix and a frozen pizza, with her husband and 6-year-old in case the storm goes on for days.

“It’s gonna be a long haul,” Picard said.

Sullivan reported from Houston, Samuels and Berman reported from Washington and Wax reported from Katy, Tex. Fred Barbash, Derek Hawkins, Brian Murphy, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Susan Hogan, Wesley Lowery and Steven Mufson in Washington; Annie Gowen in New Delhi; Justin Glawe in Dallas; Stephanie Kuzydym and Dylan Baddour in Houston; Tim Craig in Rockport and Corpus Christi; Brittney Martin in San Antonio; Ashley Cusick in New Orleans; Mary Lee Grant in Port Aransas, Tex.; and Sofia Sokolove in Austin contributed to this report.

Further reading:

‘All night of slam, bang, boom,’ then a scramble to assess the hurricane’s damage

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