President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday afternoon that his administration’s response to two hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico last year was an “unsung success.” “Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” the president said during an Oval Office meeting with FEMA Director Brock Long about Hurricane Florence, which is expected to make landfall in the coming days. “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.” The president continued, saying that Puerto Rico’s power grid was in “very bad shape” and that the U.S. territory was in “bankruptcy” before Hurricanes Maria and Irma hit last year. “I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success,” he said.
His comments fly in the face of FEMA’s own admission that the agency could have “better anticipated” the storms. A recent report commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico estimated that Hurricane Maria led to the deaths of 2,975 people, which would make it the second-deadliest hurricane in U.S. history. In addition, a recent letter from Long to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) indicated that FEMA only gave 75 people funeral assistance, approving aid for just three percent of the 2,431 requests the agency received. Last year, Trump called the situation in Puerto Rico not a “real catastrophe like [Hurricane] Katrina.”