WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump continued to insist Wednesday that his administration did a “great job” in responding to Hurricane Maria, which left more than 3,000 people dead, as Hurricane Florence rolls toward the Carolina coast.
Trump said in an early morning tweet that his administration got “A pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!”
San Juan’s Democratic Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s slow response in Maria’s aftermath and she exchanged several public barbs with Trump at the time.
“He doesn’t understand that this isn’t about him and about his ego,” Cruz said when asked about Trump’s tweet on MSNBC Wednesday. “This is about the inability of his administration, that he directs, to ensure that the appropriate help got to Puerto Rico in time.”
She added that for the sake of the citizens in the path of Hurricane Florence, she hopes Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have “learned their lesson.”
If Trump thinks losing “3,000 lives is a success,” Cruz tweeted Tuesday, “can you imagine what he thinks failure looks like?”
The president has consistently applauded the Maria response, even as the estimates of deaths in Puerto Rico caused by the storm have climbed from 64 to 2,975 people, making it the deadliest hurricane to hit America in more than a century.
Trump said Tuesday, “I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful.” And he called it “one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”
The president also sent two tweets – one featuring a video message – warning people of the danger of Hurricane Florence as it approaches the East Coast, and assuring residents that emergency responders are prepared.
“We’ll handle it. We’re ready. We’re able,” Trump said.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló responded to Trump’s comment in a statement Tuesday, which said, “No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called ‘successful’ because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights.”
Rosselló called Maria “the worst natural disaster in our modern history,” but added that now is the time “to channel every effort to improve the lives of over 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico,” rather than to assess blame.
He also said Puerto Ricans “pray for the safety and well-being of our fellow citizens” in Florence’s path.
A study published last month from George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, which was commissioned by the Puerto Rican government, found that government emergency plans in place when Maria hit were not designed for hurricanes greater than a Category 1. Maria was a Category 4 with 154 mph winds.