President Trump on Tuesday continued to attack the government of Puerto Rico in a dispute over blame for the island’s slow recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017. He repeated his claim that the federal government is paying $91 billion in relief aid. It’s unclear where the president got that figure.
“Puerto Rico got 91 Billion Dollars for the hurricane, more money than has ever been gotten for a hurricane before, & all their local politicians do is complain & ask for more money,” Trump tweeted. “The pols are grossly incompetent, spend the money foolishly or corruptly, & only take from USA.”
The last clause implied a lack of recognition that Puerto Rico is, in fact, a part of the United States.
“The best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico is President Donald J. Trump,” he continued. “So many wonderful people, but with such bad Island leadership and with so much money wasted. Cannot continue to hurt our Farmers and States with these massive payments, and so little appreciation!”
According to the Washington Post, the U.S. government has so far spent more than $10 billion of an announced $41 billion disaster relief appropriation to Puerto Rico for damage caused by Hurricane Maria.
Last week, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló warned Trump after the president reportedly considered halting further disaster relief to the beleaguered territory.
“If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth,” Rosselló told CNN when asked about a tense meeting Wednesday between members of the Trump administration and Puerto Rican officials.
“It would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with [lack of] courage,” Rosselló added.
He responded to Trump’s latest barrage on Tuesday.
“Mr. President: STOP spreading misinformation!” Rosselló tweeted. “#PuertoRico has not received $91b (only 300M in permanent work). It’s not ‘us’ vs ‘them’. It’s about Americans in need.”
In a Monday night tweetstorm, Trump railed against “incompetent or corrupt” officials on the island.
“Their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess — nothing works,” the president tweeted. “FEMA & the Military worked emergency miracles, but politicians like the crazed and incompetent Mayor of San Juan have done such a poor job of bringing the Island back to health. 91 Billion Dollars to Puerto Rico, and now the Dems want to give them more, taking dollars away from our Farmers and so many others. Disgraceful!”
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was quick to fire back.
“Pres Trump continues to embarrass himself & the Office he holds,” she tweeted. “He is unhinged & thus lies about the $ received by PR. HE KNOWS HIS RESPONSE was innefficient at best.
“He can huff & puff all he wants but he cannot escape the death of 3,000 on his watch,” she added. “SHAME ON YOU!”
Trump has long bristled over criticism of his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria.
Last year, after the death toll from Maria in Puerto Rico was revised upward from the initial 64 to more than 3,000, Trump advanced a conspiracy theory, claiming without evidence that Democrats inflated the figures to make him look bad.
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Trump tweeted in September 2018. “When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”
The president added: “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”
Weeks after the hurricane hit, Trump his response deserved a grade of 10 out of 10, even as most of the U.S. territory remained without power.
Meanwhile, Trump’s treatment of Puerto Rico seems to have had a contagious affect inside the administration.
In an interview with MSNBC, White House spokesman Hogan Giden accidentally referred to Puerto Rico as another country, saying: "With all we've done in that country, they have systematic mismanagement of the goods and services we've sent to them."
Gidley later said it was "a slip of the tongue."
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