While speaking with Geraldo Rivera Monday, Donald Trump said he’s giving Puerto Rico an “absolute no” on the topic of statehood.
Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth, and has been since 1898, according to NPR. Puerto Rico has held referendums for statehood five times, and voted overwhelmingly in favor of statehood in the most recent election.
But it doesn’t matter. Whether or not Puerto Rico becomes a state is matter for Congress to decide, not the voters in Puerto Rico.
“With the mayor of San Juan as bad as she is,” Trump said while speaking with Rivera Monday, “Puerto Rico shouldn’t be talking about statehood until they get some people that really know what they’re doing.”
Trump is referring to Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, whom he has previously labeled as “incompetent.” Trump famously had a lot to say about Puerto Rico and the San Juan mayor in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which struck the island nation in September 2017, according to National Geographic. The official death toll of that event was 2,975, based on a study conducted by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.
This number is something else Donald Trump disputes. According to the Orlando-Sentinel, Trump argued about the hurricane’s official death toll during the same Monday interview, saying, “Wait a minute, you went from 16 to 64…We did a great job, and then you went from 64 to 3,000? How did that happen? And they couldn’t explain it.”
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
Puerto Rico has a population of over 3 million, who voted by a majority of 97 percent to become a U.S. state in the 2017 referendum.
Trump talked about Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico for several minutes during the interview, Vox reports. “Locally, they did a very, very poor job. The electricity was broken before the storms.” Here, Trump is referring to the blackout that affected Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit, and he’s incorrect. The power grid was functioning when the hurricane hit.
In the interview, Trump accused the San Juan mayor of hiding, disposing of or otherwise tampering with supplies provided through FEMA from the U.S. government. “When you find out what [Mayor Cruz] did with those supplies, you will be shocked, it was disgraceful,” he said.
Pres Trump thinks loosing 3,000 lives is a success. Can you imagine what he thinks failure looks like?
— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) September 12, 2018
Mayor Cruz was vocal about her anger with the slow response Puerto Rico received from the U.S. in the hurricane’s aftermath. FEMA delayed approval for supplies, and there were multiple problems with FEMA contractors that led to millions of meals being lost or damaged.
More than 50 members of Congress have co-sponsored a bill that will grant Puerto Rico statehood by 2021. Trump’s signature is required before the bill becomes a law.
“With people like that involved in Puerto Rico, I would be an absolute no. Whatever her name might be,” Trump said of the possible statehood.