Trump lashes out at Puerto Rico mayor

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By David Nakamura and John Wag­ner

BRANCHBURG, N.J. — Pres­i­dent Donald Trump, spend­ing the week­end at his Bed­min­ster golf re­sort in New Jersey, at­tacked the mayor of San Juan on Satur­day for “poor lead­er­ship” and ac­cused her of con­spir­ing with Democrats to crit­i­cize his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse to storm-rav­aged Puerto Rico.

Trump blasted Mayor Car­men Yulin Cruz in a se­ries of tweets that seemed aimed at de­flect­ing blame for the deep­en­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis on the is­land and cast­ing the mount­ing crit­i­cism against him as par­ti­san at­tacks — from local of­fi­cials, po­lit­i­cal ri­vals and the me­dia.

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very com­pli­men­tary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” Trump wrote on Twit­ter. In an­other mes­sage, he added that Cruz and other local of­fi­cials “want ev­ery­thing to be done for them when it should be a com­mu­nity ef­fort.”

The out­burst came as Trump bris­tled over ac­cu­sa­tions from local of­fi­cials that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has not moved quickly enough to pro­vide sup­port and aid amid wide­spread power out­ages that have left res­i­dents with­out air con­di­tion­ing, while food, drink­ing water and other ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties are in short sup­ply in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Maria. At least 16 peo­ple have died since the storm struck Sept. 20.

On Fri­day, Cruz pleaded for ad­di­tional help from the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, say­ing at a news con­fer­ence: “I am beg­ging, beg­ging any­one who can hear us to save us from dy­ing . ... We are dy­ing and you are killing us with the in­ef­fi­ciency.”

In his re­sponse on Twit­ter, Trump cast Cruz’s crit­i­cism as “un­fair” to the thousands of fed­eral work­ers his ad­min­is­tra­tion says are now in place on the is­land, and he praised the ef­forts of the mil­i­tary and other first re­spon­ders.

Trump spoke by phone in the af­ter­noon with Puerto Rico Gov. Ri­cardo Ros­sello and U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands Gov. Ken­neth Mapp and later praised both of them on Twit­ter.

And Trump reaf­firmed that he and first lady Me­la­nia Trump in­tend to travel Tues­day to Puerto Rico, with a pos­si­ble stop in the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands, which also is re­cov­er­ing from hur­ri­cane dam­age.

“To the peo­ple of Puerto Rico: Do not be­lieve the #FakeNews!” Trump wrote on Twit­ter in the af­ter­noon.

Ap­pear­ing on MSNBC, Cruz em­pha­sized that she was not trying to be “nasty” to the pres­i­dent and said she re­mains open to speak­ing or meet­ing with Trump.

“I’m fight­ing to save lives,” she said. “That’s it. This isn’t per­sonal.”

She also made clear she didn’t plan to stay quiet.

“I will al­ways speak my mind,” Cruz told re­porters at the Roberto Cle­mente Coli­seum in San Juan. “I don’t give a damn.”

The pres­i­dent’s tone pro­voked a ma­jor back­lash among Democrats, com­mu­nity lead­ers and celebri­ties who lam­basted him for cast­ing blame and ap­pear­ing in­sen­si­tive to the suf­fer­ing of U.S. ci­ti­zens.

Many of the strong­est cri­tiques came from fe­male law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing Sens. Cather­ine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Kirsten Gil­li­brand, D-N.Y., and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“When a hur­ri­cane hits, there are no Democrats or Re­pub­li­cans — only Amer­i­cans, fam­i­lies strug­gling to sur­vive,” Pelosi tweeted. “Shame­ful @POTUS can’t see that.”

Lin-Manuel Mi­randa, the cre­ator of the mu­si­cal “Hamil­ton,” wrote on Twit­ter that Trump is going “straight to hell.”

Trump’s se­nior aides struck back, echo­ing the pres­i­dent’s as­ser­tions that the “fake news” me­dia had failed to tell the full story of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­cov­ery ef­forts. White House of­fi­cials dis­trib­uted an email to news out­lets stat­ing that 10,000 fed­eral work­ers are on the is­land and that re­cov­ery work­ers have cleared 11 ma­jor high­ways and 50 per­cent of the ma­jor road­ways. The mil­i­tary is air­drop­ping sup­plies to re­mote re­gions in the moun­tains.

Yet the White House’s own sta­tis­tics showed how much work re­mains: Just 45 per­cent of res­i­dents have ac­cess to drink­ing water from the is­land’s pipe­lines and 49 per­cent of gro­cery and big box stores and 60 per­cent of gas sta­tions have re­opened.

Doug Heye, a GOP con­sul­tant and former com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, said he found Trump’s tweets “ap­palling.”

“He es­sen­tially said Puerto Ri­cans were lazy,” said Heye.

Late Satur­day, Trump sought to strike a more pos­i­tive tone, tweet­ing: “We must all be united in of­fer­ing as­sis­tance to ev­ery­one suf­fer­ing in Puerto Rico and else­where in the wake of this ter­ri­ble dis­as­ter.” But he did not re­lent in his crit­i­cism of Cruz.

“Re­sults of re­cov­ery ef­forts will speak much louder than com­plaints by San Juan Mayor,” he tweeted.

JOE RAE­DLE/GETTY

San Juan Mayor Car­men Yulin Cruz on Satur­day called for a united fo­cus on the peo­ple in Puerto Rico who need help.

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