White House vows to help Puerto Rico recovery ‘until the job is done’


White House chief of staff John Kelly told reporters Thursday that the government will be in Puerto Rico aiding with recovery efforts “until the job is done,” just hours after President Trump tweeted that the U.S. military and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can’t stay in the hurricane-ravaged territory “forever.”

“We will stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done,” Kelly said at a White House press briefing.

Trump ignited controversy with the morning tweets saying emergency personnel can’t stay in Puerto Rico “forever.” 

The island territory is still recovering from two devastating hurricanes and many residents remain without power, clean water or food. Critics have accused Trump of not caring about the plight of Puerto Ricans and of paying less attention to their struggles than to the struggles of those hit by hurricanes in the Gulf region last month.

Kelly said Trump believes Puerto Ricans are U.S citizens and he parsed the president’s tweet, saying it was accurate — that the military and first responders are tasked with completing the recovery and getting out.

“I think he said the U.S. military and FEMA can’t be there forever. First responders. The minute you go anywhere as a first responder, and this applies certainly to military, you’re trying and working very hard to work yourself out of a job,” Kelly said. 

“There will be a period in which we hope, sooner rather than later, to which the U.S. military and FEMA generally speaking can withdraw because then the government and the people of Puerto Rico are recovering sufficiently and starting the process of rebuilding,” he said.

“I just got off of the phone with the governor of Puerto Rico. A great relationship. The president deals with him periodically. We saw him when we were down there last week. … But the tweet about FEMA and DOD — the military — is exactly accurate,” Kelly said. “They will not be there forever, and the whole point is to start to work yourself out of a job and transition to the rebuilding process.”

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