Trump: Puerto Rican mayor is ‘nasty’ to him
President blasts U.S. territory official, says feds doing ‘fantastic job’
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO President Trump blasted the increasingly critical mayor of this capital city Saturday for “poor leadership ability” in not being able to “get their workers to help” in hurricane relief, saying the federal government is doing a “fantastic job.”
The president said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz had been “complimentary” to him only a few days ago but “has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.”
He said the mayor and “others” on the island “want everything done for them.”
In a series of tweets, he also slammed “Fake News CNN and NBC,” which he said “are going out of their way to disparage our great First Responders as a way to ‘get Trump.’ ” He said the reports were not fair to responders or their efforts.
Five hours later, a second set of tweets from Trump set a somewhat softer tone: “To the people of Puerto Rico: Do not believe the #FakeNews! #PRStrong,” the president tweeted. “We must all be united in offering assistance to everyone suffering in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the wake of this terrible disaster.”
Cruz, in emotional appeals on TV on Friday, has become the face of Puerto Rican officials distraught about what some charge is an insufficient response by the U.S. government to the crisis from Hurricane Maria, which has killed at least 16 people on the island.
While Trump described the federal response as “amazing,” Cruz called on the president to speed up the delivery of food, water, medicine and fuel and “to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.”
“I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying,” Cruz said Friday. “If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency.”
Cruz, in a Saturday appearance on MSNBC’s AM Joy, said it wasn’t just her saying the island needs help. Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the Washington Post reported, said Friday that there was a lack of people and assets to assist the island.
“(A) three-star general (is) saying we don’t have enough,” she said. “So it’s not only me.”
Cruz said she wouldn’t be “distracted by small comments, by politics, by petty issues. This is one goal, and it is to save lives. That’s all that matters.
“Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico . ... They want everything to be done for them.” President Trump, in a series of tweets
Whomever says things that can help will be praised; whomever doesn’t will not.”
Cruz said she’d be willing to meet with Trump when he visits Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
“If Mr. Trump wants to see me, I would be very glad to meet with him,” she said. “He’s the president of the United States. I afford him the same respect that I afford the leader of every other nation of the world that was democratically elected.”
While increasing amounts of water, food and medicine have been arriving on the island of 3.4 million people as a distribution bottleneck eases, many — particularly in remote and mountainous areas — remain desperate for water and other necessities.
In the face of pointed criticism from the mayor and other Puerto Rican officials, Trump unleashed the series of tweets Saturday morning, saying “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”
Celebrities, especially those of Puerto Rican descent, reacted harshly to Trump’s criticism.
“You’re going straight to hell,” Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda told Trump in a tweet. “No long lines for you. Someone will say, ‘Right this way, sir.’ They’ll clear a path.”
Kim Kardashian West tweeted, “Please stop tweeting & golfing while people are dying!”
Trump also said he and first lady Melania Trump will be traveling to Puerto Rico and possibly the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were also battered by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Trump said that in the Virgin Islands, “people (are) working hard.”
Five hours later, he came back in another series of tweets: “Despite the Fake News Media in conjunction with the Dems, an amazing job is being done in Puerto Rico. Great people!”
Trump followed that up with praise for Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon.
Rosselló said Saturday that he only heard about Trump’s morning tweets when a reporter read them to him but has spoken multiple times in recent days to the president, as well as Vice President Pence.
“He has reiterated his commitment and that we are a priority,” Rosselló said at a news conference. “And he has shown that whenever we have asked, he has delivered.”
Rosselló added, “The only way for this to work is to stress collaboration. I am committed to collaborating with everyone.”
The death count is 16, but “based on the devastation it will likely go up,” he said.
Rosselló said the number of open gasoline stations has increased from 450 four days ago to 714. He said 11 regional staging areas have been receiving food and water across the island, and telecommunications has been restored in several key municipalities, including San Juan.
He also said stockpiles of fuel have increased to 600,000 barrels of diesel and 722,000 barrels of gasoline.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, right, hugs Esperanza Ruiz as she arrives at a temporary government center at the Roberto Clemente stadium Saturday in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
People fill bottles from a stream just outside of Naranjito. Ten days after Hurricane Maria struck, drinking water remains scarce. Residents use La Plata River for bathing and washing clothes.