Trump tells Puerto Rico aid won’t go on ‘forever’
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 Kelly reassured him that no federal resources were being withdrawn anytime soon.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.