Timeline: Trump’s response to the crisis in Puerto Rico

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President Trump has worked to defend his administration’s response to the growing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico amid escalating backlash from critics.

Trump on Saturday continued to tout federal efforts to respond to devastation left by Hurricane Maria earlier this month while lashing out at the mayor of San Juan, who had criticized the storm response in an emotional plea for federal help.


Lawmakers have called for aid including food, water and medicine to be more quickly distributed to storm victims on the island, which saw massive power outages following the hurricane. Meanwhile, Democrats ripped into Trump on Saturday for his tweets going after the San Juan mayor.

Here is a look back at Trump’s response to the disaster. 

Approval of disaster declarations

Trump approved disaster declarations for U.S. territories including Puerto Rico last week after the hurricane made landfall as a Category 4 storm, wreaking havoc on the islands.

The president also pledged his support for Puerto Rico as the storm hit the U.S. territory earlier this month.

Announced visit to Puerto Rico

Trump announced during his appearance at the United Nations last week that he would visiting the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory in the wake of the storm’s devastation, but did not specify when. 

“Got hit with winds they say, they’ve never seen winds like this anywhere,” Trump said.

“Got hit as a 5, Category 5 storm, which literally never happens,” he continued.

Administration officials travel to Puerto Rico to survey damage 

The administration sent Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long and homeland security adviser Tom Bossert to Puerto Rico to survey the damage on Monday, in what White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was an “unprecedented movement” planned by the White House to respond to the hurricane. 

Trump highlights Puerto Rico’s debt and poor infrastructure

The president went on to issue a series of tweets on Monday, saying the island nation was “in deep trouble,” and pointed to its outdated infrastructure and large debt that complicate recovery efforts. 

Trump announces date for Puerto Rico visit 

Trump announced on Tuesday he would be visiting the hurricane ravaged island next week and touted his administration’s response to the crisis. 

The president said his administration has “shipped massive amounts” of food, water and supplies to Puerto Rico, adding that the island “was hit as hard as you could hit.”

Trump cites Atlantic Ocean for slow movement of aid 

Trump caught flak for his response to criticism that his administration was not doing enough to aid the island.

While detailing steps that the federal government was taking on Tuesday, Trump noted the difficulties of sending aid to “an island sitting in the middle of an ocean.”

“It’s a big ocean, it’s a very big ocean. And we’re doing a really good job,” Trump said.

He repeated the assertion during a news conference, saying, “This isn’t like Florida, where we can go right up the spine, or like Texas, where we go right down the middle and we distribute. This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean. This is tough stuff.”

Trump amends disaster declaration 

Trump amended his previous disaster declaration on Tuesday for Puerto Rico by declaring that the island would no longer need to split costs with FEMA for cleaning up debris and “emergency protective measures,” instead handing 100 percent of the bill to the federal government.

FEMA was previously providing assistance to the island on a cost-shared basis before Trump’s change. 

The administration temporarily lifts the Jones Act

Sanders announced on Thursday that Trump agreed to waive the Jones Act, temporarily lifting shipping restrictions on Puerto Rico and enabling the hurricane-ravaged island to receive necessary aid.

Several lawmakers had called on the administration to waive the restrictions, as had been done after other hurricanes slammed into Texas, Louisiana and Florida last month.

On Friday, the three-star general newly put in charge of coordinating the military response in Puerto Rico said that the Defense Department had not sent enough troops and vehicles to the hurricane-ravaged island, but planned to send more. 

San Juan mayor says towns waiting for Trump response

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said on Friday that while she appreciated the president’s call to the island’s capital city, she pointed out that there are “77 other towns waiting” for a response from Trump. 

“They’re waiting anxiously and will be very grateful to you and to the American people if you continue to step up to the moral imperative that you’ve taken on all over the world to help those in need,” Cruz said. “So help us.”

“And I know he can do it, because he did it yesterday with San Juan. Somebody heard me, and they just came to San Juan and things started moving and rolling. But this has to happen on a continuous basis with the entire island of Puerto Rico.”

Cruz issues plea for help, criticizes federal storm response

However, Cruz issued a more emotional plea for help later on Friday, in which she condemned the federal government’s response to the natural disaster. 

“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. 

White House disputes that recovery efforts hampered by NFL controversy 

As Cruz’s comments gained traction, the White House continued to face criticism after The Washington Post reported on Friday that Trump and his team effectively “went dark” after departing for Bedminster, N.J., last Thursday night for a political rally in Alabama.

Trump sparked backlash at the rally by blasting NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem, which dominated headlines over the weekend amid the federal response to Puerto Rico. 

Sanders pushed back on the report on Saturday, tweeting that the president has received daily updates from FEMA and his chief of staff John Kelly. 

Trump hits Cruz for ‘poor leadership’

Trump unleashed a barrage of attacks early Saturday targeting the “poor leadership” of the San Juan mayor and other Puerto Rican officials.

Various Democratic lawmakers ripped Trump over the tweets Saturday, blasting him for going after officials on the storm-ravaged island while spending the weekend at his New Jersey golf club.

Trump went on to issue a series touting his administration’s response to the crisis and attacking press coverage of it.

Tags Hurricane Maria John Kelly Puerto Rico

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