Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long is really bad at groveling for Trump to save his job.
As Tropical Storm Florence continued to cause massive flooding in large swaths of the Carolinas on Sunday, Long, who faces an internal investigation for the misuse of government vehicles, defended Donald Trump’s “deatherism” claims that the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria is illegitimate.
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Long praised Trump as an unparalleled leader in his support of the federal disaster response agency. And he used a bizarre argument—spousal abuse—in an effort to further undermine studies that say Puerto Rico’s death toll was about 3,000 people.
“Well, I’ll tell you this: One thing about President Trump is that he is probably the one president that has had more support for what goes on back here,” Long said, referring to the FEMA staff sitting at computer terminals behind him. “And I think he’s defensive because he knows how hard these guys behind me work, day in and day out, for a very complex situation. And it’s frustrating.”
Long’s statement echoed a quote Trump attributed to him on Saturday via Twitter: “We (@FEMA) have never had the support that we have had from this President. Administrator @FEMA_Brock.” (As Long points out on his own Twitter feed, he started his current job at FEMA in June 2017.)
After stroking Trump’s ego, the FEMA administrator tried to discredit the studies.
“Those studies, the Harvard study was done differently than the George Washington study or this study or that study, and the numbers are all over the place,” Long said.
Host Chuck Todd interrupted to ask if Long believed Trump’s claim that the studies were part of a Democratic plot to make the president look bad.
After a bit of stuttering, Long said, “I don’t know why the studies were done. I mean, I think what we’re trying to do, in my opinion, what we’ve got to do is figure out why people die from direct deaths, which is the wind, the water, and the waves, buildings collapsing, which is probably where the 65 number came from.”
Then he got to the part about spousal abuse being nobody’s fault and people randomly falling off rooftops (emphasis mine):
“And then there’s indirect deaths. So, the George Washington study looked at what happened six months after the fact, and you know what happens is, and even in this event, you might see more deaths indirectly occur as time goes on because people have heart attacks due to stress, they fall off their house trying to fix their roof, they die in car crashes because they went through an intersection where the stoplights weren’t working.
“You know the other thing that goes on, there’s all kinds of studies on this that we take a look at, spousal abuse goes through the roof. You can’t blame spousal abuse, you know after a disaster, on anybody.”
Long then returned to kissing Trump’s ass, a nice touch when you know the president’s watching.
“And the president’s very passionate about the work we’ve done,” Long said. “He’s been incredibly supportive of me and the staff. He’s actually, I’ll bet he’s probably the only president that’s held two Cabinet-level meetings, brought his entire Cabinet to this agency to show support. They come through this agency every day. And he’s very supportive, which is exactly what FEMA needs.”
On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that Long is “resisting an effort by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to replace him” over the government vehicles investigation. “The prospect of Long’s dismissal has alarmed current and former staff at FEMA and DHS,” the Post noted, as currently there is no one in the No. 2 job at the agency.
And the country is in the middle of battling a natural disaster. So, there’s that.
Shortly after Long’s interview aired, Trump tweeted: “FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement are working really hard on hurricane Florence. As the storm begins to finally recede, they will kick into an even higher gear. Very Professional!”