Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Roselló took a frustrated tone with President Donald Trump over the slow relief efforts for Hurricane Maria. In an interview with CNN, Roselló explained that he refused to let the White House (and Trump in particular) bully officials and slow the relief efforts on the island.
“If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth,” Rosselló said, according to CNN. “It would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.”
Almost two years after Hurricane Maria blew through Puerto Rico, leaving millions without water or electricity, relief efforts are still ongoing, with much of the appropriated money mired in Congressional legislation. President Trump has reportedly refused to schedule a meeting with Roselló to coordinate the response to the disaster.
Puerto Rican officials visited Washington Wednesday, but were reportedly warned by senior White House staff that they were pushing too hard to schedule a meeting with the President and that no such meeting was forthcoming. White House trade advisor Peter Navarro, among others, reportedly threatened the Puerto Rican officials present at the meeting, stating that “You guys have to f***ing stop with the meeting request,” and that “your governor is f***ing things up.”
On Tuesday, President Trump told Republican legislators that Puerto Rico had gotten too much money to rebuild after Hurricane Maria. The amount “is way out of proportion to what Texas and Florida and others have gotten,” Trump said, per Sen. Rubio. https://t.co/djivRvcS8j (1/6)
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 28, 2019
White House spokesman Judd Deere denied the reports, and said that the Trump administration would continue working on relief efforts for the island.
“The White House recently helped set up important meetings between Governor Rossello and HUD and FEMA leadership. We understand that the governor is not visiting until later in April and we look forward to once again helping set up productive conversations with Administration leaders to discuss the island’s recovery,” Deere stated.
Though Congress has authorized billions of additional dollars to relief for Puerto Rico, President Trump reportedly told legislators at a closed-door meeting Tuesday that the apportioned amount “is way out of proportion to what Texas and Florida and others have gotten,” according to Sen. Marco Rubio, per NBC News.
Deere placed the blame for the crisis on Puerto Rico’s own government spending, rather than on the destructive effects of the hurricane, according to NBC News.
“The Trump administration will not put taxpayers on the hook to correct a decades-old spending crisis that has left the island with deep-rooted economic problems.”
Hurricane Maria and its aftermath have killed at least 2,975 people, making it the deadliest natural disaster in the United States in 100 years, per NBC. The disaster has reportedly increased the risk of dying by more than 60 percent in some of the island’s poorest areas.