Trump: We’re getting ‘really good marks’ for Puerto Rico response
President Donald Trump said he plans to travel to Puerto Rico next Tuesday to survey the wreckage left behind by Hurricane Maria, and boasted that his administration is getting “really good marks” for its response to the devastating storm.
“I mean I think we’re really getting really good marks for the work we’re doing,” Trump told reporters at the White House, also saying, “I grew up in New York so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans, and these are great people. And we have to help them.”
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He added, “We’ve gotten A-pluses on Texas and on Florida. And we will also on Puerto Rico.”
Trump has come under fire for his relatively muted response to what some officials have called a “humanitarian crisis” in Puerto Rico, which is home to roughly 3.5 million U.S. citizens suffering from a lack of food, water and power. While Trump rushed to visit Texas and Florida in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the president went days without tweeting about Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, instead focusing on his feud with NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.
He turned his attention to the devastation on Monday night, but appeared to place some blame on Puerto Rico for its poor infrastructure and financial crisis, while heaping praise on his administration’s response.
“Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble,” Trump tweeted. “It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well. #FEMA.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hit back at Trump on Tuesday morning. “Now is not the time, Mr. President. Puerto Rico needs help from aid workers, not debt collectors from Wall Street,” Schumer said, according to his spokesman Matt House.
Trump, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, said a “tremendous” amount of supplies are flowing from the mainland United States to the “literally destroyed” island. He added that he didn’t want to interfere with the relief effort by visiting too soon.
“Tuesday seems to be the first time we can do without really disrupting first responders and the efforts that are being made to help people,” Trump said. “We have shipped massive amounts of food and water and supplies to Puerto Rico, and we are continuing to do it on an hourly basis.”
The president also took time Tuesday at the top of a bilateral press conference with the president of Spain to talk again about Puerto Rico, repeating many of the same sentiments he had expressed earlier and announcing plans to visit not just Puerto Rico next Tuesday but also the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Recovery from Hurricane Maria’s landfall has been slow thus far in Puerto Rico, where many are still without power and could be for months. Other infrastructure is still severely damaged as well, and clean drinking water and temporary housing for those displaced by the storm remains an urgent issue.
In an interview with CBS news on Tuesday, Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, thanked the president and praised the FEMA workers on the ground in Puerto Rico, but also indicated that aid is not flowing to those who need it most and that bureaucracy and logistics are hampering relief efforts.
“First of all, yes, thank you to FEMA. All the people that are here are working very hard. But you know, you’ve got to work hard and you’ve got to put this aid in the hands of the people,” Cruz said. “FEMA is great, but if they’re not allowed to do their job, if the chain of command is hindering them, if they need memos in order to process what they are seeing on the TV, on electronic networks and so forth, then you are tying their hands to their back.”