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Puerto Rico May Be Trump’s Ultimate Stain

The president tried to withhold relief from the U.S. territory — can you guess why?

US President Donald Trump takes part in a food and supply distribution at the Cavalry Chapel in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017.Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump takes part in food and supply distribution at the Cavalry Chapel in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Update: The special counsel’s office has released a statement in response to Buzzfeed’s report: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” wrote special counsel spokesperson Peter Carr. Original text below.

In the din of horrible presidential deeds and possible smoking guns revealed just in the last week, you may have missed a Washington Post story about the resignation of Pam Patenaude.

Until last month, Patenaude was Ben Carson’s deputy at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She resigned for what she called personal reasons, but the report cites her disagreements with the administration’s revanchist approach to Obama-era housing segregation rules. It also notes her concern about President Trump’s desire to defund the Hurricane Maria recovery effort in Puerto Rico. To be sure, the president did not merely want to cut back or to slow the flow of federal disaster funding in the U.S. territory — he wanted to cut it off altogether.

Trump reportedly told John Kelly and Mick Mulvaney that he did not want “a single dollar” going to Puerto Rico “because he thought the island was misusing the money and taking advantage of the government,” the Post report claims. He reportedly wanted the Congressional appropriations redirected at his whim to fund recoveries in Texas and Florida, which would be just as illegal as diverting them to build a border wall. Apparently, Trump “was not consolable about this.”

This is a week in which we have learned that the insidious practice of family separation was more widespread than we were led to believe. We also saw this president toy around with the safety of Speaker Nancy Pelosi by revealing her plans to visit a Middle Eastern war zone, blowing up her itinerary in a retributive act. Then we learned that Trump may have committed an unequivocally impeachable act, as BuzzFeed reported that he allegedly told his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed business deal with Russia.

This isn’t a competition, but the Puerto Rico travesty belongs at the forefront of our attention and at the very top of Trump’s political epitaph.

An estimated 2,975 people died in the aftermath of the storm, and Trump would have the island rot. It is clear, from the negligence that the government has shown Puerto Rico since Maria hit, that this president is not interested in helping an island full of brown people. To Trump, Puerto Rico is a low-income housing tenant that he was forced to take on and that he now wishes that he could evict.

In a way, Trump has found a scheme to deny Puerto Rico the money. The HUD funding that Patenaude fought for is sitting somewhere idle in the government coffers right now thanks to Trump’s border wall crusade, which has shut down the government for a record amount of time.

What may be the oddest thing in the report is Patenaude’s pledge to support the same president who worked against her goals and now is blocking her accomplishment. “I’m going to continue to be supportive of the president and his agenda,” she said in an interview. “I’m going to be working very hard for his reelection.”

If that was the only friend Puerto Rico had at HUD, I tremble to think what is next.

This story has been updated to reflect the Special Counsel’s statement regarding the original BuzzFeed News report.

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