Trump comments on North Dakota drought, highlights Heitkamp |

Trump comments on North Dakota drought, highlights Heitkamp

President Donald Trump reaches to shake hands with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., before delivering a speech on tax reform at a refinery in Mandan, N.D., on Wednesday. Other North Dakota officials, from left, are Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Gov. Doug Burgum, Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, and Rep. Kevin Cramer, all Republicans.
The Hagstrom Report |

On a visit to North Dakota Sept. 6 to promote tax reform, President Donald Trump made some odd comments on the drought the state has experienced this summer.

According to a White House transcript of his remarks at an oil refinery in Mandan, Trump noted the resilience of people in Texas and Louisiana in reaction to Hurricane Harvey.

“And I know you have a little bit of a drought. They had the opposite. Believe me, you’re better off. You are better off. They had the absolute opposite.”

Trump added, “I also want to tell the people of North Dakota and the Western states who are feeling the pain of the devastating drought that we are with you 100 percent — 100 percent. And I’ve been in close touch, numerous times, with our Secretary of Agriculture, who is doing a fantastic job, Sonny Perdue, who has been working with your governor and your delegation to help provide relief. And we’re doing everything we can, but you have a pretty serious drought.

“I just said to the governor, I didn’t know you had droughts this far north. Guess what? You have them. But we’re working hard on it and it’ll disappear. It will all go away.”

Before switching to the topic of tax reform, Trump added, “I want you to know we’ll always stand strong and unified with our farmers and our ranchers — the backbone of America — that I can tell you, 100 percent.”

During his speech, Trump asked North Dakota politicians to come up on stage, all Republicans except for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who had traveled with him on Air Force One.

“I hope we’ll have your support,” Trump said to Heitkamp, in an apparent reference to his tax reform proposal.

Later, he noted that a Democratic senator from North Dakota had voted for President Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts and said, “You listening, Heidi? Yes, Heidi is listening. Yeah, she heard that. Thank you, Heidi. We’re not going to put her on the spot. I’m not putting her on the spot.”

After the visit, Heitkamp said in a news release that “North Dakota workers must be at the forefront of any tax reform bill. When a sitting president visits North Dakota, that’s a welcome opportunity for our state and a chance for us to highlight North Dakota’s priorities

“Today President Trump spoke about his priorities for tax reform, and it’s encouraging he committed to promoting American workers as key to any tax reform policy. But, as North Dakota’s former tax commissioner, I know the devil is in the details of any reform plan as tax codes are complex, and we need to know what those details are.

“I’ve long said that I’m open to working with Republicans and Democrats on comprehensive, permanent tax reform that promotes North Dakotans during their working years as well as protects their dignity in their retirement, and I intend to keep working with both sides of the aisle to see if we can come up with a tax reform plan that works for North Dakota workers and retirees.”

Trump made the trip to North Dakota after a White House meeting with House and Senate leaders at which he shocked Republican leaders by agreeing to support a Democratic proposal to raise the federal debt ceiling for three months. Republicans wanted to lift the debt ceiling for a longer period in order to avoid difficult votes as the 2018 election season approaches. Analysts said today that Trump agreed to the Democratic proposal because he wants to focus on tax reform.

Trump devoted much of his speech on North Dakota’s energy sector.

The Bismarck Tribune reported that the speech was well received, but noted some protesters, including one with a sign reading “Without diversity, we’d only have lutefisk.”