The Trump administration and its congressional allies have said little about a Harvard study released this week that estimated more than 4,600 people have perished in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. While 11,000 Puerto Ricans still lack electrical power eight months after the storm, the president himself actually praised the botched federal response in remarks on Friday to the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Last season, during the Hurricanes, I was in Texas, I was in Florida, I was in Puerto Rico,” he claimed, “I saw the work that you did under the most adverse conditions. And I’ve said this to a lot of people, I don’t think any brand has gained more momentum or gained any more of anything than the brand of the United States Coast Guard.”
Trump has previously blamed the ongoing problems on “poor leadership ability” of local officials and announced just days into the recovery efforts that he would “not keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” In his sole trip to the U.S. territory in October, after the storm’s devastation, he prematurely boasted that only 16 people had been certified as having died, favorably comparing that to the “literally thousands of people” who perished in Hurricane Katrina.
The president’s latest callous comments come a day after his trip to Texas, during which he met with the families of victims of last month’s Santa Fe High School mass shooting. Prior to that trip, he told reporters that he was traveling to Dallas, Houston, and predicted: “We are going to have a little fun today.”