President Donald Trump on Wednesday unloaded on Puerto Rico and San Juan’s mayor in a series of tweets as residents braced for the first powerful hurricane to hit the island in two years.
“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!” Trump tweeted.
“And by the way, I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico!” he added.
The president’s Twitter tirade came moments before he approved a state of emergency declaration for the island, allowing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin coordinating relief efforts.
Hurricane Dorian intensified to a Category 1 hurricane as it approached the east end of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, bringing destructive winds of up to 75 mph and about 10 inches of heavy rainfall. According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm could strengthen to a Category 3 hurricane before possibly making landfall in Florida on Monday.
“Practically the entire island will be under sustained tropical storm force winds,” Roberto Garcia, the director of the U.S. National Weather Service in San Juan, said in a Tuesday press conference.
Trump alluded to the emergency funds earlier Wednesday morning, tweeting the White House was “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!” he said, attacking Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.
As a vocal critic of Trump and his administration's handling of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and his disparaging remarks about Puerto Rico, Cruz responded to the president on Wednesday and told him to “calm down.”
“Trump needs to be quiet, ‘calm down’ get out of the way and make way for those of us who are actually doing the work on the ground,” Cruz said. “Maybe Trump will understand this time around THIS IS NOT ABOUT HIM; THIS IS NOT ABOUT POLITICS; THIS IS ABOUT SAVING LIVES.”
The Trump administration has been widely criticized over its crisis response in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the 2017 Category 4 storm. According to one study commissioned by the island and performed by George Washington University researchers, nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the storm and its after-effects, including widespread power outages.
According to the Associated Press, about 30,000 homes on the island still have blue tarps covering damaged roofs and over 3.2 million people still depend on the power grid prone to massive outages since it was destroyed by Hurricane Maria.
The president has categorically denied the thousands of deaths and any wrongdoing in his administration's response—falsely claiming last September that the death toll was exaggerated by Democrats for political gain. Instead, Trump sought praise for the response, calling it “an incredible, unsung success” and blaming any disruption on the island’s “tough” location.
“I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” Trump said in September. “It was one of the best jobs that's ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”