President Donald Trump is already picking a fight with Puerto Rican officials as a tropical storm barrels toward the island, showing insensitivity to Americans still recovering from one crisis and facing another.
“We are tracking closely tropical storm Dorian as it heads, as usual, to Puerto Rico. FEMA and all others are ready, and will do a great job. When they do, let them know it, and give them a big Thank You - Not like last time. That includes from the incompetent Mayor of San Juan!” Trump tweeted from the White House Wednesday morning.
Later Wednesday, he continued to slam the territory’s government and praise himself.
“Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt. Congress approved Billions of Dollars last time, more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Pols. No good!” he wrote, adding, “And by the way, I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico!”
Trump’s lack of empathy for Puerto Ricans has been at odds with his treatment of storm victims in the continental US during his tenure in office, prompting criticism of racism, including from some local officials defending their home.
Trump and local officials – namely San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz – have consistently sparred in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria over funding, the President’s disparaging remarks about the island and more.
Tropical storm Dorian is expected to be near a Category 1 hurricane as it approaches Puerto Rico Wednesday and could strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane before making landfall in Florida over Labor Day Weekend.
Puerto Ricans are bracing for heavy rains and strong winds nearly two years after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria. Nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the storm and aftereffects, including widespread power outages. Trump has consistently denied any fault for his administration in the aftermath of the storm. In fact, the President has instead sought praise for his handling of Hurricane Maria, calling it “an incredible, unsung success” last year.
Yulín Cruz criticized Trump on Tuesday as her city prepared for another storm, telling the President to “get out of the way.”
“It seems like some people have learned the lessons of the past or are willing to say that they didn’t do right by us the first time and they are trying to do their best. That is not the case with the President of the United States. We are not going to be concerned by, frankly, his behavior, his lack of understanding, and it is ludicrous,” she told CNN.
“Three thousand Puerto Ricans did not open their eyes this morning because this racist man did not have it within him to do his job. So get out of the way, President Trump, and let the people who can do the job get the job done,” Yulín Cruz said.
Trump declared a national emergency and ordered federal assistance to Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, he tweeted his surprise that “another” storm was headed to the island and cited misleading aid numbers.
“Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end? Congress approved 92 Billion Dollars for Puerto Rico last year, an all time record of its kind for ‘anywhere,’” he wrote.
But more than half of that $92 billion is based on the White House’s estimates for costs FEMA could incur in years to come. $42.7 billion of relief has been appropriated by Congress, with $20.8 billion obligated to be spent by the federal government, and $13.8 billion actually spent, according to the federal government’s disaster relief website.
CNN’s Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes contributed to this report.