Donald Trump told residents of East Palestine, Ohio that they are victims of ‘betrayal’ by President Biden and the federal government, and said his visit finally sparked them to act in a tour of the toxic train derailment site on Wednesday.
Trump praised the response from local law enforcement and the ‘strength and courage’ of the local residents, and said: ‘You are not forgotten’.
His visit coincided with Norfolk Southern releasing a statement saying they would take ‘full responsibility’ for the derailment and detonation that released plumes of black smoke into the sky.
Donald Trump told East Palestine residents they had been victims of ‘betrayal’ by President Biden and the federal government and said his visit finally sparked them to act in a tour of the toxic train derailment site
A 50-car freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio on February 3 released toxic chemicals into the air, land and water – causing the community to evacuate after experiencing some symptoms like headaches
Hundreds waving MAGA flags greeted Trump as he touched down in the Ohio community reeling from the toxic train derailment 19 days ago.
The crowds lined the streets and some chanted ‘no more Joe’ as they awaited the arrival of the former president.
He handed out supplies including water to the residents during the visit alongside Republican Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio, who has led the backlash to the White House’s lack of response to the disaster in the town of 4,700.
Trump also met East Palestine Mayor Trent Conway, who said earlier this week that Biden’s secret trip to Ukraine was a ‘slap in the face’ to his constituents.
Republicans are furious that Biden has not visited Ohio, or at least deployed Pete Buttigieg to survey the damage and speak with local leaders about how the administration can help.
Buttigieg has said he will visit the site – next to the border with Pennsylvania and about 35 minutes from Pittsburgh – on Thursday.
He had claimed he did not want to visit just for the sake of a photo-op, which he suggested Trump is doing.
On February 3, a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed and released large amounts of toxic chemicals into the air, water and ground, forcing evacuations as residents feared for their health. Some complained of headaches and other symptoms.
On February 16, Michael S. Regan, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, traveled to the derailment site to thank first responders for their work and assure that the EPA would have ‘boots on the ground’ throughout the cleanup process.
‘We hear you. We see you. We will get to the bottom of this,’ he said. ‘All families need to know that they are safe. All families deserve access to clean air and safe drinking water.’
Biden’s trip to Ukraine and Poland this week caused an uproar with Republicans demanding answers as to why he went to the war-torn country before addressing issues back at home first.
The president finally broke his silence on the derailment with a Twitter thread on Tuesday following his speech in Poland lambasting Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. He made five calls Tuesday evening from Warsaw, Poland.
The president noted that he spoke with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
‘I reaffirmed my commitment to making sure they have everything they need,’ Biden wrote in a thread posted to his official Twitter Tuesday evening.
He noted that the EPA ordered Norfolk Southern, the train owner and operator, to fund the clean-up efforts and disposal of the runoff and burn off of hazardous materials.
‘This is common sense. This is their mess. They should clean it up,’ Biden wrote.
Biden also blamed the disaster on his predecessor, saying that Trump implemented policies that made it hard to strengthen and enforce rail safety.
‘For years, elected officials – including the last admin – have limited our ability to implement and strengthen rail safety measures,’ Biden wrote. ‘Heck, many of the elected officials pointing fingers right now want to dismantle the EPA – the agency that is making sure this clean-up happens.’
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggested Tuesday that Trump’s trip to Ohio is just a photo-op and assured that he will also make a visit to East Palestine following backlash for not already going to the community
Biden has received a slew of backlash for going to Ukraine and Poland this week before visiting Ohio
‘I want affected residents to know that we’ve got your back,’ Biden insisted. ‘And as I said to your govs, they’ll have every resource that they need.’
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway, however, isn’t convinced Biden is committed to helping his community – instead saying he is ‘furious’ that Biden chose to visit Ukraine this week before coming to Ohio.
East Palestine is still reeling from the fiery 50-car derailment aftermath, and Conway says Biden’s refusal to focus on domestic issues and instead parade around in the war-torn Eastern European country was a ‘slap in the face.’
Buttigieg, however, downplayed the need for an administration official to come survey the damage and visit the community disrupted by the toxic crash.
He also suggested that Trump’s trip to Ohio on Wednesday is just a photo-op as part of his 2024 campaign.
Trump announced November 15 his third run for the White House. He has not held many public events since announcing his bid during a rally at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Last month he visited early primary contest states of New Hampshire and South Carolina for campaign events that were much more intimate than the usual massive Trump rallies.
Biden’s team has repeatedly blamed Trump for the derailment while refusing to do much to get boots on the ground to address the issue as the public calls for a visit from the president to the community.
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway (center) told Fox News this week that he is ‘furious’ President Joe Biden took a trip to Ukraine before visiting the site of the Ohio train derailment – calling the move a ‘slap in the face’
It’s true that some policies were implemented during Trump’s presidency that affected rail safety, including withdrawing an Obama-era proposal that required more swift brakes on trains carrying highly flammable materials. He also ended regular railroad safety audits.
‘Our team is working in lockstep with state and local officials and were on the ground hours after the train derailed,’ Biden assured.
He said that the EPA has already screened more than 500 homes in the area and is ‘monitoring air and water quality.’
The administration also deployed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chemical assessment personnel and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) resources to East Palestine.
‘The Department of Transportation has made clear to rail companies that their pattern of resisting safety regulations has got to change,’ Biden wrote in his Twitter thread Tuesday night.’
‘Congress should join us in implementing rail safety measures.’