Biden steps back into role of consoler-in-chief as he flies to Florida to meet with families

Biden steps back into role of consoler-in-chief as he flies to Surfside, Florida where he will spend hours meeting with shattered families and responders contending with condo building collapse

President Joe Biden will spend Thursday stepping into the role of consoler-in-chief, with trip to visit to Surfside, Florida where he will spend hours meeting with families of those feared lost in the building collapse and officials overseeing the desperate search for life that is coming to an end.

He is being joined by first lady Dr. Jill Biden

The president, who speaks frequently of grief and has bonded with families of school shooting victims and others touched by loss by invoking his own life tragedies, is making the trip at an uncertain time, with new information coming in about water damage that may have triggered the collapse, and documents revealing the condo building’s efforts to contend with ballooning roof and structural repair estimates.

There were reports early Thursday morning that recovery efforts had to be paused amid instability in the pile of rubble where part of the tower north of Miami once stood.  

In a sign of the sensitivity of the situation, the White House released only scant details about the trip until late Wednesday – ultimately releasing a bare-bones schedule that carves out time for individual meetings with concerned family members that have become a hallmark of Biden’s identity. 

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden depart from Joint Base Andrews en route to Miami, Florida. Biden will meet with first responders and families dealing with the Champlain Towers South condo building collapse north of Miami

The president lost his first wife and daughter to a car accident shortly before being sworn in as a senator, and his adult son, Beau, succumbed to brain cancer. He frequently shares his own grief when connecting with families who have lost loved ones or otherwise dealt with tragedy.

Officials and engineers are still seeking to uncover what caused the collapse of part of the Champlain Towers South building in Miami last week, leading to the death of at least 18 people, with 145 still unaccounted for.

The White House organized an unusually early departure for Biden, who left the White House around 7 am. He didn’t speak to reporters at either opportunity, and didn’t respond to a shouted question about the indictment of Allen Weisselberg, longtime Trump Organization exec, in New York. 

Traveling with the president is senior advisor Anita Dunn, deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon, and FEMA head Deanne Criswell, as well as aides speechwriters, and other assistants. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is also joining him on Air Force One. 

After landing in Miami, Biden will meet with Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Governor Ron DeSantis, as well as local leaders and first responders


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