Trump: We Can't Keep FEMA, the Military & First Responders in Puerto Rico Forever

By Susan Jones | October 12, 2017 | 8:17am EDT
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, joined by FEMA administrator Brock Long, right, meet with individuals, Tuesday, October 3, 2017, as they tour a neighborhood in Carolina, Puerto Rico, impacted by Hurricane Maria. (White House Photo/Andrea Hanks)

( - President Trump sent a heads-up tweet to Puerto Rico on Thursday morning, saying the island was a "disaster" before two hurricanes hit it, and the American citizens living there cannot expect unending help from the federal government.

His comments come one day before House Speaker Paul Ryan leads a congressional delegation to the island to check on recovery efforts.

(The comments also drew a scathing response on liberal cable stations, to which Trump later replied by tweet: "The Fake News is going all out in order to demean and denigrate! Such hatred!")

In the first of his three tweets today, Trump quoted Sinclair Broadcast Group journalist Sharyl Attkisson:


"'Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making,' says Sharyl Attkisson. A total lack of accountability say (sic) the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!"

Defense Secretary James Mattis told an Oct. 3 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee it is "all hands on deck" for storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, a situation that is affecting planned troop deployments to places like Afghanistan.

When a request for military assistance comes in, Mattis told the committee, "it's approved the moment it hits the Pentagon. We have over 10,000 troops there...There's now six ships there," with one more on the way.

Mattis said there is "no lack of resources...We are ready to go, even to the point that it's going to impact the deployments, perhaps of some of these troops overseas next year, because we've interrupted their preparation. That's OK when it's helping fellow Americans," Mattis added.

Last weekend (Oct. 8), Trump tweeted, "Nobody could have done what I’ve done for #PuertoRico with so little appreciation. So much work!"

Liberals in the media and some on Capitol Hill have slammed the Trump administration's response to the Category 5 storm that devastated the island's roads, electric grid, water supply, sewer systems and housing.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), replying to Trump's tweets on Thursday, said: "Why do you continue to treat Puerto Ricans differently than other Americans when it comes to natural disasters?"

Puerto Rico's congressional delegatee Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR) told Republican news conference on Wednesday that more than 86 percent of the population is without power and more than 44 percent is without running water. Four hospitals are closed, and dialysis centers are operating on generators.

"We still have more than 11 bridges and roads that were completely destroyed,” Gonzalez-Colon said. “And we're still receiving more than 11 million meals from FEMA, 7 millions of liters of water. But we -- we still have a dire situation on the island."

Liberal media outlets have slammed Trump's criticism of the partisan mayor of San Juan, and they mocked his visit to the island, specifically when he tossed rolls of paper towels into a crowd of people gathered at a relief center Trump was visiting.

In a recent interview with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Trump defended the paper towel toss:

"So we did a great job, and we weren't treated fairly by media, because we really did a good job. I'll give you one example. They had these beautiful soft towels, very good towels, and I came in and there was a crowd of a lot of people.

“And they were screaming and they were loving everything, and I was having fun -- they were having fun. They said 'throw ‘em to me, throw ‘em to me, Mr. President.’ And so I'm doing” (he made tossing motion). "And so the next day, they (media) said, ‘Oh, it was so disrespectful for the people.’ It was just a made-up thing," Trump said.

During his visit to Puerto Rico last week, Trump said, "I hate to tell you Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack. Because we've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico and that's fine, we've saved a lot of lives."

On Sept. 29, Trump told a gathering at the White House, “Ultimately, the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort...will be funded and organized and what we will do with the tremendous amount of existing debt already on the island.”

And before that, on Sept. 25, Trump tweeted: "Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble."  

Some Trump critics, including Late Night host Seth Meyers, have slammed Trump's response to Puerto Rico as "racist," which feeds right into the liberal playbook.

“When the victims of hurricanes in Florida and Texas needed help he didn’t hesitate," Meyers said on Oct. 2. "But when the victims are people of the color and the people challenging him are women of color, his reaction is to insult them, drag his feet on sending help, and bring up financial issues.”

Meyers said Trump’s response to Puerto Rico shows “the very real consequences of electing a lazy, ignorant racist as president.”

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