President Trump said Tuesday that the federal government needs more help from Puerto Ricans as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria, which left the U.S. territory in a humanitarian crisis.
“On a local level, they have to give us more help,” Trump told reporters on his way to survey the damage there. “But I will tell you, the first responders, the military, [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] — they have done an incredible job in Puerto Rico.”
Trump will spend about five hours on the ground in Puerto Rico on Tuesday amid criticism that the government’s response has been inadequate.
Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall, many of the island’s 3.4 million residents remain without power and are lacking food and clean water.
The White House insists that it was not caught flat-footed and has argued that the response has been complicated by the difficulties inherent in transporting aid through a disaster zone on an island in the ocean.
But Democrats have been sharply critical of the administration’s response. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said the government has been “killing us with inefficiency.”
That remark provoked a rebuke from Trump, who has been frustrated by what he views as unfair media coverage and criticism of the government’s response.
Cruz will attend a briefing with Trump in San Juan on Tuesday. The president said he believes the San Juan mayor has “come back a long way.”
“I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that, and in Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus,” Trump said. “And I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico, and it’s actually a much tougher situation. But now the roads are cleared, communications is starting to come back. We need their truck drivers to start driving trucks."
“Whether it’s [Cruz] or anybody else, they’re all starting to say it,” Trump added. “I appreciate very much the governor [Ricardo Rosselló] and his comments. He has said we have done an incredible job, and that’s the truth.”