WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump suggested again today that Puerto Rico bore some of the blame for its current crisis following twin hurricanes, and warned that there were limits to how long he would keep troops and federal emergency workers on the island to help.
Trump, who has been criticized for a slow and not always empathetic response to the storms that ravaged the U.S. territory, sounded off in a series of early-morning Twitter posts. Angry about the criticism, he has sought to refocus blame to where he believes it belongs — the leadership of the island itself, which in his view mismanaged its affairs long before the winds blew apart its infrastructure.
“‘Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.’ says Sharyl Attkisson,” he wrote, citing the host of a public affairs show on Sinclair Broadcast Group television stations. “A total lack of accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
Federal government officials quickly said that they were not pulling out of Puerto Rico anytime soon. But the Twitter posts provoked another wave of criticism from the island and its supporters.
Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of the capital of San Juan who has been critical of Trump’s response and blasted by him in return, condemned his latest message as adding “insult to injury.”
After the tweets this morning, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló called the White House and said he received assurances that the president fully supported recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico was already facing deep financial troubles before Hurricanes Irma and Maria swept across the island, knocking out many basic services. Three weeks after Maria hit, 83 percent of the island was still without power, 36 percent had no running water and 45 percent was without telecommunication services.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency posted its own message on Twitter: “.@FEMA will be w/Puerto Rico, USVI, every state, territory impacted by a disaster every day, supporting throughout their response & recovery.”