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Ex-FEMA chief: Bush staff warned of Katrina

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card “I expected them to cut every piece of red tape, do everything they could … that I didn’t want to hear anybody say that we couldn’t do everything they humanly could to respond to this,” Brown said about a video conference with administration officials – in which President George W. Bush briefly participated – the day before Katrina hit. “Because I knew in my gut this was the bad one.” In the end, the storm claimed more than 1,300 lives, uprooted hundreds of thousands more and caused tens of billions in damage. The devastation in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities left Americans with enduring images of their countrymen dying in flooded nursing homes and pleading for rescue from rooftops. Brown, in his second Capitol Hill appearance since Katrina, told his side to the senators five months after he quit under fire as chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He agreed with some senators who characterized him as a scapegoat for government failures. “I feel somewhat abandoned,” said Brown, WASHINGTON – Former federal disaster chief Michael Brown, the face of the government’s listless response to Hurricane Katrina, said Friday he told top Bush officials the day the storm howled ashore of massive flooding in New Orleans and warned “we were realizing our worst nightmare.” More defiant than defensive, Brown told senators he dealt directly with White House officials the day of the Aug. 29 storm, including chief of staff Andrew Card and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin. He also said the Homeland Security Department was among a half-dozen government agencies that received regular briefings that day from him and other officials by way of video conference calls. Administration officials have said they did not realize the severe damage Katrina had caused until after the storm had passed. Under oath, Brown told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he could not explain why his appeals failed to produce a faster response. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has said he did not know that New Orleans’ levees were breached until Aug. 30. Bush at the time said, “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” At an occasionally contentious White House briefing Friday, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said there were conflicting reports about the levees in the immediate aftermath of the storm. “We knew of the flooding that was going on,” McClellan said. “That’s why our top priority was focused on saving lives. … The cause of the flooding was secondary to that top priority and that’s the way it should be.” After three hours of testimony, Brown was handed a subpoena ordering him to reappear in front of a House panel investigating the storm response. Brown is expected to be questioned by House investigators this weekend – days before the panel is expected to release its findings on the storm. Recounting conference calls that described initial damage reports the day Katrina hit, Brown scoffed at claims that Homeland Security didn’t know about the devastation’s scope until the next day. He called those claims “just baloney.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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