Trump tweets support for ex-presidents' appeal, but isn't part of rollout

Story highlights

  • It was a show of force from the former presidents
  • It highlighted the strain between Trump and his predecessors

(CNN)President Donald Trump voiced his support late Thursday for a charity appeal from his five living predecessors, but wasn't included in the rollout -- a break from similar efforts in the past that brought together members of the Presidents' Club.

Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all appeared in a public service announcement video that aired during Thursday's NFL season opener. They didn't appear together; instead, they filmed clips separately discussing Hurricane Harvey's devastation that were butted together into a 30-second spot.
Trump -- who is busy corralling the federal government response as another impending storm barrels toward Florida -- tweeted later that he was "proud to stand with presidents" in supporting the effort, called the One America Appeal. But he wasn't featured in the video and wasn't asked to participate, according to a person familiar with the former presidents' efforts.
    That's a different approach than presidents and their precursors have taken in the past when disaster struck. It's also a fresh reminder of how estranged Trump, the 45th President, is from his predecessors.
    A week after a massive tsunami devastated parts of South Asia in 2004, then-President George W. Bush stood in the White House Roosevelt Room alongside two ex-presidents -- his father, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton -- to announce a new humanitarian effort for victims of the catastrophe.
    The effort morphed the next year into a relief appeal for another disaster, Hurricane Katrina, though the elder Bush and Clinton launched that effort without the sitting president, who was engulfed in a controversy about a lackluster federal response to the storm.
    Five years later, then-President Obama invited George W. Bush and Clinton to the Rose Garden to announce humanitarian efforts in Haiti, which had suffered a devastating earthquake four days earlier.
    "What these gentlemen are going to be able to do is when the news media starts seeing its attention drift to other things but there's still enormous needs on the ground, these two gentlemen of extraordinary stature I think are going to be able to help ensure that these efforts are sustained," Obama said then. "And that's why it's so important and that's why I'm so grateful that they agreed to do it."
    This time around, the five ex-presidents acted on their own to focus attention on the recovery efforts in Texas. Trump has shined his own spotlight on the disaster relief campaign, traveling to Texas twice to meet with local authorities and displaces residents, and offering a $1 million personal donation to 12 different charities.
    The person familiar with the former presidents' appeal said that although the White House was notified ahead of the public announcement, the effort was always intended to include only the ex-presidents without participation from the current commander in chief.
    That wasn't intended as a slight, the person said, and wasn't because of the animosity that's lingered between Trump and some his predecessors.
    The Texas-based Bushes spearheaded Harvey efforts, and donations to the appeal will be funneled through a special account created by George H.W. Bush's library foundation.
    The "Presidents' Club" has existed in an uneasy state since Trump was elected. The normal comity between past holders of the job and the current occupant has been disrupted by Trump's frequent criticism of Obama, his continued attacks on the Clintons, and his general disregard for the usual displays of decorum offered by holders of the job. He's not believed to have spoken to any ex-presidents since taking office in January.
    The White House did not respond to an inquiry about whether Trump was invited to participate.