President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE mulled selling Puerto Rico as the territory struggled in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, former acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine DukeElaine Costanzo DukeBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Appeals court sides with Trump over drawdown of immigrant protections Trump mulled selling Puerto Rico, former aide says MORE told The New York Times.
Duke, who served in the role for four months, told the Times on Friday that she was shocked when the president raised the suggestion of “divesting” or “selling” Puerto Rico.
“The president’s initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know,” she said. “Can we outsource the electricity? Can we … sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?”
The newspaper noted that Duke said the idea of selling of Puerto Rico was “never seriously considered or discussed” after Trump proposed it.
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, leading to almost 3,000 deaths related to the storm or its aftereffects, including monthslong power outages.
Trump and Puerto Rican officials blamed each other amid the island’s recovery, with the president faulting local officials for their management of relief funds. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz criticized the administration for the delay in federal response to hurricane recovery, prompting the president to target Cruz in several tweets, and call her “incompetent.”
White House officials told congressional leaders and appropriators not to give any more money to Puerto Rico in November 2018, CNN noted.
The Washington Post reported a relief fund of $17 billion was released in January with tough restrictions. Administration officials attributed the delay to corruption concerns, but critics said the postponement was political.
In her Times interview, she also accused Trump of being paranoid of “deep state” plots and using “hate-filled, angry and divisive” language.
Duke said she is not ready to commit to voting for Trump, telling the newspaper: “That’s a really hard question. But given the choices, I don’t know yet.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere responded to Duke’s interview by saying the president “has never wavered in his highest obligation to the American people: their safety and security.”
“Not a single person can dispute that President Trump has kept his promise to the American people to reduce illegal immigration, secure the border, lower the crime rate, and maintain law and order,” he said.