Trump tells Puerto Rico aid won’t go on ‘for­ever’

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION - By Peter Baker and Caitlin Dickerson ———

WASH­ING­TON >> The mes­sage was as stark as it was star­tling. Three weeks af­ter a killer hur­ri­cane rav­aged Puerto Rico, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in­di­cated on Thurs­day that he was los­ing pa­tience. At least some of the blame for the con­tin­u­ing cri­sis is yours, he told the is­land ter­ri­tory, and the fed­eral govern­ment will not stay “for­ever.”

While most res­i­dents en­dured an­other day with­out power and many with­out water or other ba­sic ser­vices, Trump up­braided Puerto Rico’s lead­er­ship for mis­man­age­ment that pre­dated the storm and said troops and emer­gency work­ers would even­tu­ally leave. Caught off guard, his ad­vis­ers scram­bled to re­as­sure Puerto Rico that Wash­ing­ton was not aban­don­ing it. The pres­i­dent’s warn­ing came on the same day the House ap­proved $36.5 bil­lion in aid for nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, in­clud­ing in Puerto Rico, with the tab ris­ing weekly. >> Hur­ri­cane Maria leaves a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on Puerto Rico’s trea­sured rain­for­est. But Trump, who has been crit­i­cized for a slow and not al­ways em­pa­thetic re­sponse to the storms that dev­as­tated Puerto Rico, sought to re­fo­cus re­spon­si­bil­ity to where he be­lieves it be­longs. The tweets set off alarms in San Juan, the Puerto Ri­can cap­i­tal, where Ri­cardo A. Ros­sello, the gover­nor, anx­iously called John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, to seek an ex­pla­na­tion. Kelly re­as­sured him that no fed­eral re­sources were be­ing with­drawn any­time soon.

“Our coun­try will stand with those Amer­i­can ci­ti­zens in Puerto Rico un­til the job is done,” Kelly said. The pres­i­dent, he as­serted, merely meant that even­tu­ally the fed­eral govern­ment would com­plete its mis­sion.

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