Trump says he will visit East Palestine after two weeks of silence on disastrous train derailment

Donald Trump says he will visit East Palestine, Ohio, two weeks after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into the community.

The former president’s son Donald Trump Jr first announced the visit on Friday, tweeting: “If our ‘leaders’ are too afraid to actually lead, real leaders will step up and fill the void.” The scope of the visit was not specified but on Saturday, Mr Trump confirmed on his platform Truth Social that he will travel on Wednesday to the community with a population of 4,700.

Mr Trump did not miss a chance to slam the Biden administration, claiming that his announcement prompted the White House to deploy FEMA’s assistance to East Palestine. The agency issued a joint statement with Governor Mike DeWine on Friday saying a regional incident management assistance team will arrive in the village.

“Biden and FEMA said they would not be sending federal aid to East Palestine. As soon as I announced that I’m going, he announced a team will go,” Mr Trump said on Truth Social. “Hopefully he will also be there. This is good news because we got them to “move.” The people of East Palestine need help. I’ll see you on Wednesday!”

Mr Trump, who is running for the White House in 2024, had been facing growing criticism for not addressing the environmental disaster on 3 February, which saw around 50 rail cars of a Norfolk Southern train, some carrying hazardous materials, go careening off the tracks. Democrats have placed blame at Mr Trump’s door, pointing to his administration’s decision in 2017 to roll back an earlier Obama rule which required some freight trains to use electronically-controlled pneumatic brakes if cars were carrying flammable liquids.

Mr Trump confirmed on his platform Truth Social that he will travel to the community with a population of 4,700 on Wednesday.

(Truth Social )

“We are concerned that the Trump administration rolled back some of the safety rules and some of the railroad safety and worker safety rules,” Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown told The Independent earlier this week. “I mean, every chance Republicans get they weaken worker safety rules, they weaken and weaken environmental rules. They weaken consumer protection rules. So we want to know if we’ve got to fix that. But that doesn’t help East Palestine now.”

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who took flack from both sides of the aisle for his perceived muted response, also tweeted: “We’re constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe.”

Ohio Republican Congressman JD Vance then took aim at Mr Buttigieg, telling him to stop blaming the Trump administration.

“The Department of Transportation, your Department of Transportation, has things it can do,” Mr Vance said, according to The Washington Examiner. “Stop blaming Donald Trump, a guy who hasn’t been president for three years, and use the powers of the federal government to do the things necessary to help people in this community.”

The Department for Transportation (DOT) spokesperson later clarified Mr Buttigieg’s comment.

A spokesperson told Newsweek: “The residents of East Palestine deserve accurate information and it’s unfortunate to see certain media outlets trying to cause misplaced outrage in an ongoing and serious investigation.”

“The Secretary’s earlier statement clarifies a question some people have had about a rule that was rescinded under the Trump administration, which, importantly, would not have applied to the train in question,” the statement added. “DOT had investigators on the ground within hours after the crash and continues to support the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board).”

East Palestine is located in Columbiana County, a longtime Republican stronghold which voted overwhelmingly for Mr Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections.

The source who confirmed Mr Trump’s visit to FOX also told the network that the former president has “a strong relationship” with the people of Ohio.

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