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Trump slams Puerto Rico: ‘They want everything to be done for them’

President Trump on Saturday criticized Puerto Rico's "poor leadership" and defended his administration's response to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in an early morning series of tweets that earned immediate backlash from Democrats and other critics.

Following a plea for aid on Friday by San Juan's mayor, Trump said the mayor was being "nasty." 

“The mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” Trump tweeted. "Such poor leadership ability by the mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help."

"They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort," he continued. "10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job."

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz held an emotional press conference Friday ripping the Trump administration’s efforts to assist the island.

"I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency," she said.

On Saturday, following Trump's tweets about her, Cruz said her top goal is "saving lives."

"Actually, I was asking for help. I wasn't saying anything nasty about the president," Cruz said on MSNBC following the tweets. "It's not about politics, it's not about petty comments, it's about moving forward, putting boots on the ground and saving lives.”

Democrats slammed Trump's response to Cruz and his relief efforts for the U.S. territory. 

“Is your ego so fragile & your heart so cold that you’d attack a leader in the midst of a humanitarian crisis because she needs your help?” Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) tweeted at Trump on Saturday.

“You watch TV & tweet insults at their leaders from your golf club,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted.

 

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Cruz, who is a member of the island's Popular Democratic Party, is just one element of the active pressure on the Trump administration over what critics are saying is a slow response to the hurricane devastation. Numerous officials in Puerto Rico are warning it could be a humanitarian disaster. 

The island has been without water or power since Hurricane Maria hit a week ago.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent airplanes and ships with food, water and generators and 10,000 federal employees have been deployed to help in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which was also hit.

The three-star general recently put in charge of U.S. military relief operations in Puerto Rico said Friday that there are as many as 4,600 troops on the ground in Puerto Rico — including members of the National Guard and Reserves — and the Pentagon would be sending more troops and vehicles to the island, where residents could be without power for six months.

Trump also temporarily lifted the Jones Act, which requires American-made and -operated vessels to transport cargo between U.S. ports, including Puerto Rico, in order to bolster relief by ship to the island.

Trump has not acknowledged anything lacking in his administration’s response to the crisis but this week blamed the media for allegedly trying to “get Trump” by disparaging aide workers.

He also blamed the distance between the island and the mainland U.S. for hampering relief.

Trump insisted Friday that his administration is doing an “incredible job” with relief efforts.

"We have done an incredible job, considering there's absolutely nothing to work with," Trump told reporters at the White House. 

"And a very big question is, what are we going to do with the power plant? Because the power plant is totally wiped out," he said. "There is nothing. The power grid is gone."

He also said on Friday that Puerto Ricans are "unable to get involved" in relief efforts.

“They're taking care of their families and largely unable to get involved, largely unable to help,” he said. “Therefore, we're forced to bring in truck drivers, security and many, many other personnel by the thousands. And we're bringing them onto the island as we speak. We've never seen a situation like this.”

However, Cruz has taken the media spotlight to warn that not enough is being done to help her city and the island.

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Friday night, Cruz wore a shirt emblazoned with the words “help us, we are dying.”

Alicia Cohn, Melanie Zanona and Mike Lillis contributed. Updated 10:45 a.m.