Trump: Federal Hurricane Response in Puerto Rico ‘One of the Best Jobs That’s Ever Been Done’

By Melanie Arter | September 12, 2018 | 11:17 AM EDT

President Donald Trump (Screenshot)

( - When asked Tuesday what lesson does he take from hurricane response in Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the federal response in Puerto Rico last year was “incredibly successful” considering the challenges they faced of bringing supplies to the island by boat as well as the already failing power grid on the island.

“I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful. Puerto Rico was, actually, our toughest one of all because it's an island, so you just -- you can't truck things onto it. Everything is by boat. We moved a hospital into Puerto Rico -- a tremendous military hospital in the form of a ship,” Trump said.

The president appeared alongside FEMA Administrator Brock Long and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to talk about preparations for Hurricane Florence, which is poised to hit the East Coast, specifically the states of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

“And if you ask the governor, he'll tell you what a great job. I think probably the hardest one we had, by far, was Puerto Rico because of the island nature, and I actually think it was one of the best jobs that's ever been done with respect to what this is all about,” Trump said.

“Puerto Rico got hit not with one hurricane but with two, and the problem with Puerto Rico is their electric grid and their electric generating plant was dead before the storms ever hit. It was in very bad shape. It was in bankruptcy. It had no money. It was largely -- you know, it was largely closed,” he said.

“And when the storm hit, they had no electricity -- essentially before the storm, and when the storm hit, that took it out entirely. The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did, working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success,” the president added.

Trump said the federal government response in Texas and Florida was given “A+” but “the best job we did was Puerto Rico, but nobody would understand that.”

It took the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority 11 months to restore power to the island after Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. 

“I mean, it's harder to understand. It was very hard -- a very hard thing to do because of the fact they had no electric. Before the storms hit, it was dead, as you probably know. So we've gotten a lot of receptivity, a lot of thanks for the job we've done in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico was very important, and, by the way, speaking of Puerto Rico, they're going to be affected, pretty much, pretty soon by something else that's on its way. Is that right?” Trump asked Long.

As the East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Isaac threatens to hit Puerto Rico. 

“Potentially, Hurricane Isaac right now is tracking south of the island, but we are -- we have several thousand people inside Puerto Rico right now working on long-term recovery that have shifted to the response mode to monitor as Isaac passes to the south,” Long said.

“We do not want to see Hurricane Isaac hit Puerto Rico. That's all we need, but we have a big hurricane out there, and it's sort of skirting along Puerto Rico and the edge of Puerto Rico. That would not be good,” the president said.


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