President Donald Trump falsely claimed credit for rescuing Puerto Rico on Thursday, after signing a bipartisan disaster relief bill passed by Congress earlier in the week, a version of which he tried to reject previously.
After weeks of working to stop aid to the U.S. territory, which was devastated by multiple hurricanes two years ago, Trump finally agreed to sign the deal after bipartisan congressional leaders reached an agreement to move the legislation with or without his support.
“Just signed Disaster Aid Bill to help Americans who have been hit by recent catastrophic storms,” he tweeted. “So important for our GREAT American farmers and ranchers. Help for GA, FL, IA, NE, NC, and CA. Puerto Rico should love President Trump. Without me, they would have been shut out!”
Just signed Disaster Aid Bill to help Americans who have been hit by recent catastrophic storms. So important for our GREAT American farmers and ranchers. Help for GA, FL, IA, NE, NC, and CA. Puerto Rico should love President Trump. Without me, they would have been shut out! pic.twitter.com/HXvYYdcNW5
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2019
Trump has attempted to credit himself for singlehandedly saving Puerto Rico in the past, even tweeting in April that he was “the best thing that ever happened” to the island. However, the Trump administration faced heavy criticism for its botched emergency response efforts after a series of storms ravaged Puerto Rico in 2017, leaving thousands dead and many more without water and electricity for months.
After the mayor of San Juan called his visit insulting — the president was infamously caught on camera tossing rolls of paper towels to survivors as if he was shooting a basketball into a hoop — Trump declared war.
Since then, the president has repeatedly attacked Puerto Rico for having had pre-existing debt and infrastructure problems, accused the mayor of incompetence, announced that emergency crews could “not stay in Puerto Rico forever” to help it rebuild, falsely claimed that the territory had received $91 billion in aid, and repeatedly tried to cut the flow of relief funds to the still-struggling population. At one point, the president reportedly considered re-purposing existing Puerto Rican aid dollars to pay for his massive southern border wall.
Puerto Rico got 91 Billion Dollars for the hurricane, more money than has ever been gotten for a hurricane before, & all their local politicians do is complain & ask for more money. The pols are grossly incompetent, spend the money foolishly or corruptly, & only take from USA….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2019
More recently, Trump attempted to stall the disaster relief bill because it did not contain funding for his border wall, and because Democrats had sought to include more aid for Puerto Rico. And late last month, he said would not do anything to improve the nation’s infrastructure unless the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives halted its oversight responsibilities, saying Congress could not go down more than “one track at a time.”
Hours after that carefully scripted “tantrum,” as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it, congressional leaders of both parties agreed on a disaster relief bill that included Puerto Rico funds but no border money, and Republican leaders informed the president that they planned to move on it, whether he liked it or not. Trump grudgingly agreed to support the compromise.
Despite Trump’s claim this week false claim that, but for him, Puerto Ricans “would have been shut out,” it was in fact congressional Democrats who successfully fought to keep those funds in the bill.
According to a September 2018 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 52% of Puerto Ricans rated the Trump administration’s hurricane response as “poor.” Just 15% said the president’s response to the tragedy was “excellent,” “very good,” or “good.”
“I believe he should have never come,” Angel Molina, a retired Army colonel from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, told the Post that month. “… When he started throwing paper towels to the audience, that was very inappropriate for the president. It don’t bring any help. I considered that an insult to us.”