Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval
Puerto Rico governor, White House clash over meeting
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) and the White House are clashing as the governor seeks a meeting with President Trump to discuss disaster relief efforts on the island.
Rosselló's office and the White House have pushed back on each other as the Puerto Rico governor seeks face time with the president while he's in Washington this weekend for a conference of governors from across the U.S.
The dispute spilled into public view on Friday, after Rosselló told The Associated Press that the White House had refused his recent public and private requests for a meeting with Trump to discuss relief efforts following Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Rosselló said he wanted to meet with Trump ahead of the National Governors Association (NGA) conference in Washington this weekend, but said the White House declined his request without offering a specific reason.
The AP reported that the White House had directed the governor to meet with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Brock Long.
Later Friday, a White House official denied that Trump "refused" to meet with the governor and said both sides would interact over the weekend and on Monday, when a group of governors is scheduled to attend a meeting at the White House.
The official also said that the White House did not receive a request for a meeting this weekend.
An administration official said that, after Rosselló's Jan. 17 meeting request, the White House arranged meetings between the governor, Carson and Long.
After those meetings, the official added, Rosselló did not follow up with a further request for a face-to-face with Trump.
"The White House and the president have not refused to meet with the governor," the official told The Hill. "We continue to have ongoing discussions with the governor about recovery efforts."
Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration Executive Director Carlos Mercader had written to White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Douglas Hoelscher on Jan. 17 to request a meeting with Trump for Rosselló, according to an email reviewed by The Hill.
"[O]n behalf of The Governor of Puerto Rico I would like to formally request a meeting with the President Donald J. Trump at his earliest convenience to address the current state of the recovery of Puerto Rico," Mercader wrote.
The request came days before Rosselló attended Trump's State of the Union address, which he did as a guest of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
In an interview with The Hill while traveling to Washington for the speech, Rosselló sought to put a focus on relief efforts in the U.S. territory, saying his top concern was the sluggishness of FEMA disbursements.
"[The Federal Emergency Management Agency] has been slow, they've put obstacles in Puerto Rico that they haven't placed anywhere else in the United States, and it has delayed our recovery significantly," he said.
Rosselló is back in Washington as part of the NGA conference this weekend and is hoping to put the issue back in the forefront.
The governor told the AP that he hopes to meet Trump when a group of governors visits the White House Monday.
After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, Rosselló was seen as close to Trump, as the governor was reluctant to criticize the administration's response, unlike other Democrats and Puerto Rican officials.
The governor's relationship with the White House has soured publicly in the past few months, as federal reconstruction funds have been slow to reach the island.
Congress last year appropriated $20 billion in block grants for reconstruction through Housing and Urban Development, but only $1.5 billion has been disbursed.
Updated at 10 a.m.