President Donald Trump heaped lavish praise Tuesday on his own administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, a devastating storm that left nearly 3,000 people dead and residents of Puerto Rico without power for months.
“I actually think its one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about,” Trump said. “I think Puerto Rico was an incredible unsung success.”
Trumps’ comments came as his administration is preparing to respond to Hurricane Florence, a dangerous Category 4 storm that is threatening to barrel down on North and South Carolina within days.
“Puerto Rico was actually our toughest one of all, because it’s an island, so you can’t truck things onto it, everything’s by boat,” he said.
Trump’s administration is still facing blistering criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria, which left nearly 3,000 dead, according to a George Washington University study. The governor of Puerto Rico recently changed the death toll from Maria from 64 to 2,975.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has been criticizing the Trump administration for a year for what she said was a failure to provide needed assistance after the September 2017 storm.
“The administration killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect,” she said on CNN earlier this month. “The Trump administration led us to believe they were helping when they weren’t up to par, and they didn’t allow other countries to help us. ... Shame on President Trump.”
But a report from the Government Accountability Office said FEMA was so overwhelmed with storms last year that when Maria hit it was unable to respond properly, noting that more than half of its disaster workers were not qualified for the jobs they were doing.
Trump has always maintained that his administration did a great job on the island and on Tuesday he blamed some of the problems on the island on poor infrastructure.
“The problem with Puerto Rico is that that their electric grid, their electric generating plant was dead before the storms ever hit,” he said. “It was in very bad shape. It was in bankruptcy. It had no money. It was largely closed.”
Trump spoke to reporters briefly after receiving a briefing by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA Administrator Brock Long on Hurricane Florence, which is expected to make landfall late in the week. Nielsen and Long did not comment on Hurricane Maria.
Florence is expected to cause damage to a large part of East Coast, but not just in the coastal areas, when it makes landfall late in the week leading to flooding, high winds and power outages. More than 1 million people already faced mandatory evacuation orders Tuesday in coastal areas of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Trump said Puerto Rico could be in the path of upcoming storm, Hurricane Isaac. “We do not want to see Hurricane Isaac hit Puerto Rico,” he said.