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Trump Claims He’s the Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to Puerto Rico

The president tweeted that the U.S. territory’s leaders are “corrupt,” “incompetent” and “crazed”

United States President Donald J. Trump speaks to the media as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, to attend a rally in Grand Rapids Michigan,.Donald Trump departs the White House, Washington DC, USA - 28 Mar 2019

United States President Donald J. Trump speaks to the media as he departs the White House in Washington, DC.

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On Monday, Senate Democrats voted down a $13.45 billion disaster relief package because it only included $600 million for Puerto Rican food stamps. President Trump responded hours later by lashing out at the U.S. territory on Twitter, calling the “place” a “mess,” accusing its politicians of incompetence and corruption and dramatically inflating the amount of aid the nation has received from his administration since it was ravaged by Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017.

Trump’s antipathy toward Puerto Rico is nothing new. Last week, the Washington Post reported that the president has been actively looking for ways to curtail aid to the territory. “He doesn’t want another single dollar going to the island,” a senior administration official with knowledge of a February 22nd meeting in which Trump asked advisers for ways to scale back relief funding told the Post.

On Monday, the Daily Beast reported that he continued to complain about funding going to Puerto Rico during a lunch with Republicans last Tuesday, and that, according to a senior administration official, the president is “clearly very bitter and sensitive about” the criticism of his inadequate response to the hurricanes. Trump’s tweets Monday night are proof enough of his insecurity. So is the fact that they continued Tuesday morning, with the president grousing about how “all their local politicians do is complain & ask for more money” while claiming that “the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico is President Donald J. Trump.”

Few outside of the White House would agree, and it’s hard to argue the administration’s response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma wasn’t an abject disaster. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has acknowledged that it was not prepared to handle the aftermath of the storms. A report released last July detailed the agency’s failings, from not stocking warehouses properly, to not having a sufficient response plan, to not having enough relief workers on staff.

Trump did not seem to take the devastation very seriously in the storm’s aftermath. During a visit to the island, he playfully shot rolls of paper towels to those affected. While sitting down with officials on the same trip, he said that Puerto Rico should be “very proud” that only 16 people died compared to the nearly 2,000 who lost their lives as a result of Hurricane Katrina, which he described as a “real catastrophe.” Last fall, when an independent study accepted as official by both Puerto Rico and the United States found that, in fact, 3,000 Puerto Ricans died as a result of the storms, Trump called the death toll “a fake-news conspiracy drummed up by Democrats to make him look bad.”

Trump has also routinely bashed the nation’s elected officials, blaming them for any issues with the ongoing recovery. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, whom he called “crazed and incompetent” on Monday night, is his most frequent target. She fired back at Trump later on Monday night. “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. SHAME ON YOU!

“Mr President I am right here ready to call you on every lie, every hypocrisy and every ill fated action against the people of Puerto Rico,” she added. “My voice,and the voices of the people of Puerto Rico, will continue to unmask your insentive, incapable & vindictive ways. SHAME ON YOU!

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello wasn’t pleased with the president’s tweets, either.

Cruz and Rossello are correct in calling out the president’s claims of benevolence. Though Trump has repeatedly said the United States has given $91 billion to Puerto Rico, the figure is an extremely generous estimate of what could go to the island over the course of decades. To date, Puerto Rico has only received $11 billion in relief funding from the United States.

But the most egregious claim Trump made in his overnight Twitter fit was, of course, that he’s the “best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico.” Not only do its top elected officials disagree, a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found last year that over half of the nation’s residents feel Trump did a “poor” job responding to Hurricane Maria. Only 20 percent felt the response was “good” or better.

Newswire

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