Candidate for U.S. Senate Thom Tillis at an early voting location in Cornelius, N.C. on Nov. 1, 2014.
Chris Keane/Reuters

Trump connects NC emergency declaration, vulnerable GOP senator

Updated

As Hurricane Dorian continues to threaten the southeastern United States, Donald Trump announced via Twitter last night that he was “getting the North Carolina Emergency Declaration completed and signed.” That made sense; the deadly storm isn’t far from the state’s coast.

But in the same tweet, the president also said that he was moving forward with the emergency declaration “at the request of” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

And if that seemed odd, there was a good reason for that: it’s not up to senators to request emergency declarations from the White House; it’s up to governors. As the Washington Post noted overnight, that’s just how the system works under federal law.

Tillis is a fellow Republican up for reelection next year and faces a GOP primary challenge. Trump endorsed Tillis in June, telling his nearly 64 million Twitter followers that the first-term senator had “really stepped up to the plate.”

North Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat. His office requested the federal disaster declaration Monday after issuing a state emergency declaration Friday.

Trump wants the public to credit the senator for the president’s willingness to sign an emergency declaration, requested by North Carolina’s Democratic governor, that Trump was going to have to sign anyway.

Why? It probably has something to do with Thom Tillis being up for re-election next year, coupled with the fact that his success is hardly assured.

As a deadly storm approaches, the president decided it would be a good time to introduce some partisan election-season politics into the hurricane-preparation process.

It’s worth noting for context that earlier this year, Thom Tillis wrote a compelling op-ed condemning Trump’s gambit to redirect federal funds to border barriers in defiance of Congress’ wishes. The GOP senator said he agreed with the president’s underlying policy goals on border security, but his conscience required him to put principle over party.

Two weeks later, Tillis abandoned his principles and endorsed Trump’s legally dubious scheme, ignoring everything the senator had just said in writing.

This, in the president’s mind, is what “stepping up to the plate” looks like, and Trump has been willing to support Tillis ever since – including, last night, crediting him with an emergency declaration he had very little to do with.

Correction: I’d originally misstated the date of a tweet from Sen. Tillis. The above text has been corrected.