Trump Privately Questioned Aid for Puerto Rico, but Says Publicly: 'I've Taken Better Care of Puerto Rico Than Any Man Ever'
According to the Washington Post about $11.2 billion of aid money has actually been spent on rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico
President Donald Trump has proclaimed himself a great supporter of Puerto Rico amid longstanding reports that he’s been dismissive of the U.S. territory — recently questioning the amount of aid needed for the island, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma in 2017.
While en route to a rally in Michigan, the president told reporters at the White House that he had “taken better care of Puerto Rico than any man ever.”
“We have $91 billion going to Puerto Rico,” he said with characteristic boastfulness. “Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being.”
Throwing in a dig at the governor of Puerto Rico and the mayor of San Juan, Trump added, “They don’t know how to spend the money, and they’re not spending it wisely. But I’m giving them more money than they’ve ever gotten.”
According to the Washington Post about $11.2 billion of aid money has actually been spent on rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico compared to about $41 billion in planned funding.
Although the Senate voted on Tuesday to advance a multibillion-dollar aid bill, which would distribute $14 billion across several stricken states and territories, according to the New York Times, Trump privately questioned why Puerto Rico should be receiving so much financial assistance.
He has repeatedly referenced a figure — $91 billion — but it’s unclear where he got that number, though the Post notes it’s possible he is adding the $41 billion in already planned funding to a government estimate of future liabilities under federal law.
But that’s not how Trump has been explaining it.
“Why are we paying them $91 billion?” Trump remarked to fellow Republicans on Tuesday during a closed lunch, per the Times. “For $91 billion, we can buy Puerto Rico four times over.”
House Democrats are lobbying for more aid to be allocated for Puerto Rico and have indicated they may block the bill should the amount not be sufficient.
Hours before Trump made his remarks to reporters, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló slammed the president for treating “us as second-class citizens” during an interview with CNN.
“These statements lack empathy, but more so they lack the true facts of the matter,” Rosselló said.
“If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth,” he said.
Trump’s comments have also been disparaged by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto.
“When faced with a devastating human crisis, Trump augmented it because he made it about himself, not about saving our lives,” she said in a statement, according to CNN. “When expected to show empathy, he showed disdain and lack of respect; it seems to be too hard for Trump to know the facts, so he continues to lie about the aid sent to Puerto Rico and about the federal inadequacy towards Puerto Rico.”
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This isn’t the first time Trump’s remarks about Puerto Rico have been met with criticism.
In October 2017, his first visit to the island since Hurricane Maria, Trump scolded the local government for throwing “our budget out of whack.”
During the same visit, he told officials they should be “proud” that not as many citizens had been killed as in Hurricane Katrina, which he described as a “real catastrophe.”
Although at the time of Trump’s initial visit, there had only been 16 reported deaths from Hurricane Maria, the death toll was later officially reported as 2,975.
Trump went on to falsely claim the official reported death toll was incorrect, tweeting without basis, “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico.”
“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,” he continued, before accusing Democrats of concocting the number.