Trump in Puerto Rico, lauds administration’s relief effort
By JILL COLVIN
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — On the ground in Puerto Rico nearly two weeks after a hurricane ravaged the island, President Donald Trump heaped praise Tuesday on his administration’s relief workers and, more selectively, Puerto Rican officials after earlier dismissing critics of the federal response as “politically motivated ingrates.”
Trump told officials and relief workers assembled in an airplane hangar that the low death toll from Hurricane Maria — he was told 16 or 17 — was a tribute to the relief efforts. “We’ve saved a lot of lives,” he said, and singled out Gov. Ricardo Rossello for “giving us the highest praise.”
The help didn’t come cheap, he said: “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.”
“But that’s fine,” he said, “because we’ve saved a lot of lives.”
The most prominent critic, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, attended the first event, in an airport hangar, shaking Trump’s hand as he went around a table greeting officials before sitting in in the shadow of a hulking, gray military plane.
“How are you?” he asked. Her response could not be heard. He thanked her. Days earlier, Cruz said the Trump administration was “killing us with the inefficiency,” pleading for more effective federal leadership in the crisis.
Air Force One brought the president, first lady Melania Trump and aides to Puerto Rico in late morning. They were expected to spend more than five hours on the ground, meeting first responders, local officials and some of the 3.4 million people whose lives have been upended by a hurricane that, in the president’s words, left the island U.S. territory “flattened.”
The plane descended over a landscape marked by mangled palm trees, metal debris strewn near homes and patches of stripped trees, yet with less devastation evident than farther […]