President Donald Trump kicked off his Saturday morning by attacking the Puerto Rican people who are struggling to recover from a devastating hurricane that has left much of the U.S. territory without power, food, and water. Trump had particularly harsh words for San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been outspoken in her pleas for assistance from the U.S. mainland, accusing her of being “nasty” to him and blasting her “poor leadership.”
The president’s tweets provoked widespread outrage, even among conservatives who are typically more supportive of Trump. Nonetheless, as the morning progressed, Trump and other White House officials doubled down further on their attacks against the Puerto Rican leader, who has recently put forth several emotional pleas saying she wants to save her people from dying.
Trump was apparently so pleased with this morning’s jab at Cruz that he re-posted his tweet on his Instagram account several hours later.
When an ABC News reporter asked the White House Saturday morning whether Trump planned to meet with Cruz in person during his upcoming trip to Puerto Rico, the unnamed official responded with another barb at the mayor — suggesting she’s “too busy doing tv” to respond to the president’s invitations.
Asked a WH official if POTUS has plans to meet with the Mayor of San Juan Tuesday and got this response –> pic.twitter.com/Vo5CYamuMR
— Katherine Faulders (@KFaulders) September 30, 2017
On his personal Twitter account, the White House social media director, Dan Scavino Jr., accused Cruz of “putting on a show” and claimed she’s been “hating” on Trump for more than a year.
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@DanScavino) September 30, 2017
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested over Twitter that criticizing the administration’s response to relief efforts in Puerto Rico, as Cruz has been outspoken about for several days, is akin to not supporting the troops.
US military & first responders saving many lives in PR, but like so many of their acts of heroism, is often a story that doesn’t get told
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) September 30, 2017
These attacks are helping to move the political narrative from a conversation about the Trump administration’s potentially botched hurricane relief efforts to a conversation about a political feud between Trump and the San Juan mayor.
For instance, former South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who’s become a frequent CNN commentator, said during an appearance on the network this morning that Cruz “actually struck first” against the president.
In fact, Cruz is hardly the only person who has suggested the U.S. government’s response to Hurricane Maria has left something to be desired.
A Washington Post report published Friday evening suggests the mainland response was hampered because the president was slow to act last weekend (a report that Huckabee Sanders has denied). An unnamed senior official told the Post that the president became agitated about the situation in Puerto Rico after seeing television coverage of the issue.
Army Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan, the three-star general in charge of leading the military response to Maria, said on Friday that the Defense Department had not yet sent enough troops or vehicles to Puerto Rico to assist in the efforts.
And retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, the general who was in charge of the military response in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, didn’t mince words while appearing on CNN this week to discuss the situation in Puerto Rico.
“The president has shown again he doesn’t give a damn about poor people, doesn’t give a damn about people of color,” Honoré said. “I hate to say it that way, but there’s no other way to say it.”
Appearing on MSNBC on Saturday morning about two hours after Trump published his tweets, Cruz said that she did not intend to make a political statement against Trump.
“Actually, I was asking for help. I wasn’t saying anything nasty about the president,” Cruz said, adding that she has “no time for distractions” amid hurricane cleanup.
“I will continue to do whatever I have to do, say whatever I have to say, compliment the people that I need to compliment, and call out the people that I need to call out,” she continued. “This isn’t about me. This isn’t about anyone. This is about lives that are being lost if things do not get done properly real quickly.”
UPDATE: Trump continued to tweet about Puerto Rico throughout the day on Saturday, sending off nine additional tweets about the subject between 2:04 p.m. and 4:37 p.m.
In these tweets, the president accused the “fake news” media of misrepresenting the situation on the ground in Puerto Rico; praised Puerto Rico’s sole representative to Congress, Jenniffer González Colón (though he misspelled her name); and claimed that his administration was “getting great marks from the people that truly matter” when it comes to hurricane relief.
The president concluded that his “recovery efforts will speak much louder than complaints by San Juan Mayor.”