Trump rips Puerto Rico as ‘corrupt’ as storm approaches

President Trump on Wednesday assailed Puerto Rico as one of the “most corrupt places on earth” while defending his administration’s disaster relief efforts as the island braces for another major storm.

“Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt. Congress approved Billions of Dollars last time, more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Pols. No good!” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets.

“And by the way, I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico!” he added.

{mosads}The tweets came as Dorian, a tropical storm that has since been upgraded to a hurricane, barreled toward Puerto Rico and officials prepared for a direct hit.

Trump approved an emergency declaration late Tuesday in order to divert federal assistance to bolster response efforts to the storm.

The president has both defended his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in 2017 — which came under widespread criticism — and lashed out at Puerto Rican officials over the past few days. The Puerto Rican government has been in a state of turmoil over the past several weeks after its governor resigned amid massive protest over his leadership.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump said his administration was closely tracking the new storm and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would do a “great job” responding. He also criticized San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz as “incompetent,” after she said Trump should “get out of the way” and let others prepare for Dorian.

On Tuesday, Trump again inflated the amount of aid sent to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria by claiming Congress sent $92 billion in aid to the U.S. territory.

The White House is also defending the Trump administration’s plans to divert $271 million in funds from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including money from FEMA, to pay for immigration detention centers and court hearing space at the southern border.

In a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D) revealed that DHS plans to pull $155 million from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to pay for the border facilities and criticized the decision.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, however, claimed in an interview with Fox News Wednesday morning that Democrats and media outlets were offering misleading accounts, claiming the money cannot be used for recovery or preparedness efforts.

“The Democrats know that this money isn’t being diverted from anything that can be used for recovery efforts or preparedness efforts,” Gidley said. “This is a flat-out lie.”

Gidley also said that Trump has “moved heaven and earth” trying to help Puerto Rico rebuild.

Other Democrats have also ripped the Trump administration for diverting the DHS funds for immigration enforcement efforts.

“Taking these critical funds from disaster preparedness and recovery efforts threatens lives and weakens the government’s ability to help Americans in the wake of natural disasters,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Tuesday.

“Congress appropriated these funds to meet the American peoples’ priorities and I strongly oppose this effort to undermine our constitutional authority.”

When asked for further clarification, a FEMA spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the transfer of funds will come from one account within Disaster Relief Fund but that officials had determined the it “will not impact ongoing long-term recovery efforts across the country.”

“This transfer of funds to support the border emergency will leave a remaining balance of $447 million in the DRF Base account. Based on DHS and FEMA’s review of historical emergency spending from the DRF Base account, this amount will be sufficient to support operational needs and will not impact ongoing long-term recovery efforts across the country,” the FEMA spokesperson said.

“The DRF Majors account, which provides funding for ongoing recovery efforts, including those supporting communities impacted by the 2017 disasters, has a current balance of approximately $27 billion and is not impacted by the reprogramming,” the spokesperson said.

Updated: 4:17 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Lucille Roybal-Allard

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