Report: Trump Favored Texas Over Puerto Rico in Storm Aid

The Trump administration reacted much more aggressively to Hurricane Harvey in Texas than it did to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, according to a Politico investigation. In its review of documents and records, Politico found that more resources—from helicopters to meals and personnel—were given to Texas in the first nine days of the storm response, despite the fact that conditions in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria were more dire. Funds were also allocated faster to Texas—with $141.8 million being approved for Harvey victims in the nine days after the storm versus $6.2 million for victims of Maria. The rebuilding effort has already started in Texas, while the Trump administration is reportedly “forcing [Puerto Rico] to take a huge gamble” on an “experimental funding system,” the outlet reported. FEMA Administrator Brock Long denied the difference in response and said the agency “provided Puerto Rico the same, if not more support, as we have for all presidentially declared disasters across the nation, but an optimal response cannot rely on FEMA’s efforts alone.”

[The Daily Beast]

Mostly positive FEMA reports under Obama removed

In a rare move, the government watchdog for the Federal Emergency Management Agency has removed a dozen largely positive reports evaluating how the agency responded under President Obama to several disasters from 2012 to 2016, according to an internal memo obtained by USA TODAY.

The 12 reports were rescinded by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General because they “may have not adequately answered objectives and, in some cases, may have lacked sufficient and appropriate evidence to support conclusions,” read the internal memo issued Thursday. “In an abundance of caution, we believe it best to recall the reports and not re-issue them.”

The reports being removed include initial assessments of FEMA’s response to several disasters including two reports in 2013 on Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, a 2014 report on storms and tornadoes in Oklahoma, and a 2016 report on severe wildfires in California.

All of them praised the agency, using words such as “effective” and “efficient” to characterize the agency’s immediate response to major calamities. Typical of language used in these reports, the Inspector General commended FEMA’s response to the storms and flooding that hammered South Carolina in 2015.

[USA Today]

President says he would’ve entered Florida high school without a gun

President Donald Trump on Monday was meeting with most of the nation’s governors as he discussed gun control, world trade and North Korea.

Trump criticized the Florida deputies who didn’t confront the shooter at the massacre that left at least 17 dead, saying they “weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners,” according to the Associated Press.

“I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” added Trump, who avoided serving in the Vietnam War by saying he had bone spurs.

At the meeting, Trump suggested he might have to break with the National Rifle Association, which has opposed the president’s call for a minimum age on rifle purchases. “If the NRA is not with you, you have fight them once in a while,” he said. He did disclose he had lunch with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

He blamed the governors in the room for closing mental-health institutions. “In the old days” it was easier to commit people who acted “like a boiler ready to explode,” Trump said.

[MarketWatch]

Trump Says Florida Students Should Have Done More To Prevent Deadly Shooting

President Donald Trump on Thursday responded to the massacre at a South Florida high school by suggesting students and the surrounding community could have done more to prevent the attack.

At least 17 people were killed and 15 injured after a troubled former student opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, police said. Nikolas Cruz, 19, had been expelled from the school the previous year for “disciplinary reasons,” and many of his former classmates told media on Wednesday that he displayed problematic behavior.

“Honestly a lot of people were saying it was going to be him,” one student told CBS Miami. “We actually, a lot of kids threw jokes around like that, saying that he’s the one to shoot up the school, but it turns out everyone predicted it. It’s crazy.”

A former teacher, Jim Gard, told the Miami Herald that Cruz reportedly wasn’t allowed to carry a backpack on the school campus, and that “there were problems with him last year threatening students.”

Contrary to Trump’s tweet, it does appear that authorities were aware of Cruz’s behavior before the attack. A former neighbor told The New York Times that Cruz’s late mother called the police on her two sons on multiple occasions, though she stressed that she didn’t think the boys were violent. Broward County Mayor Beam Furr told CNN that Cruz had been treated at a mental health clinic in the past and  was somewhat on officials’ radar.

“It wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him,” Furr said.

Trump’s tweet failed to acknowledge the role that Florida’s lax gun laws played in the shooting. Barring institutionalization, it’s extremely difficult to keep someone with a history of mental illness from buying a gun in Florida. The accused killer legally purchased the AR-15-style rifle used in the slaughter, his family’s attorney said.
The president also ignored the fact that he actually made it easier for people with mental health issues to buy guns by revoking an Obama-era gun regulation last year.

[Huffington Post]

Trump says military should not have to help with food, water distribution in Puerto Rico

President Donald Trump said the military shouldn’t have to distribute the “massive amounts” of food and water that have been delivered to storm-battered Puerto Rico.

When a reporter asked Trump about disaster relief on the island, the president said that food and water had been brought to Puerto Rico, but it wasn’t being distributed by local people.

“They have to distribute the food to the people of the island. So, what we’ve done is, we now actually have military distributing food, something that really they shouldn’t have to be doing,” he said in a wide-ranging, hastily scheduled press conference on Monday.

The remark follows comments Trump made last week, where he partly blamed the island for the devastation and said emergency responders can’t stay in Puerto Rico “forever.”

Puerto Rico has been reeling in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which left most of the U.S. territory without power or access to clean drinking water. Over the weekend, local authorities raised the death toll to 48 after reviewing medical records.

A local economist projected that the wreckage may have set back Puerto Rico’s economy so much that it will now take more than a decade to recover.

Trump said Monday that aid operations in Puerto Rico are “very tough” because the island “was in very poor shape before the hurricanes ever hit.” The island had more than $70 billion in debt before Maria landed.

The president has faced criticism for an apparent lack of empathy for Puerto Rico amid the disaster response.

During a trip to the island earlier this month, Trump said the hurricane destruction had thrown his administration’s budget “a little out of whack.” Later that day, he tossed packages of paper towels to hurricane victims.

While Trump has said his administration has done a great job responding to the crisis on the island, a recent poll found that most voters disagreed. Fifty-five percent of American voters say the Trump administration has not done enough to help the U.S. territory after Hurricane Maria struck, according to a Quinnipiac poll released last week.

[NBC News]

Reality

Donald Trump is continuing his racist reasoning that the people or Puerto Rico are too lazy to help themselves.

Trump threatens to abandon Puerto Rico recovery effort

Declaring the U.S. territory’s electrical grid and infrastructure to have been a “disaster before hurricanes,” Trump wrote Thursday that it will be up to Congress how much federal money to appropriate to the island for its recovery efforts and that relief workers will not stay “forever.”

Three weeks after Maria made landfall, much of Puerto Rico, an island of 3.4 million people, remains without power. Residents struggle to find clean water, hospitals are running short on medicine, and commerce is slow, with many businesses closed.

Trump on Thursday sought to shame the territory for its own plight. He tweeted, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes.” And he quoted Sharyl Attkisson, a television journalist, as saying, “Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.”

He also wrote: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló responded with his own tweet, saying Puerto Ricans were seeking the support “any of our fellow citizens would receive across our Nation.”

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of the capital city, San Juan, who has been feuding publicly with Trump, strongly condemned the president Thursday in a tweet calling him a “Hater in Chief” and in a lengthy statement sent to reporters and members of Congress. She said the president’s actions “are unbecoming of a leader of the free world,” and she argued that he “is simply incapable of understanding the contributions, the sacrifices and the commitment to democratic values that Puerto Ricans have shown over decades.”

Cruz pleaded with “every American that has love, and not hate in their hearts, to stand with Puerto Rico and let this President know we WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE.”

The White House issued a statement Thursday committing for now “the full force of the U.S. government” to the Puerto Rico recovery, though noting that “successful recoveries do not last forever.”

“Our job in any disaster affected location is to help the community respond and recover from that disaster,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “We continue to do so with the full force of the U.S. government and its resources in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and other affected areas. Successful recoveries do not last forever; they should be as swift as possible to help people resume their normal lives. We are committed to helping Puerto Rico. Our administration is working with Governor Rosselló and Congress to identify the best fiscally responsible path forward.”

Trump has been roundly criticized for his leadership in coming to Puerto Rico’s aid. In response, the president has tried to portray the territory as in full recovery mode and has voiced frustration with what he considers mismanagement by local officials.

During a visit last week, the president tossed rolls of paper towels at local residents as if shooting baskets, drawing scorn from local leaders. He also complained that the recovery efforts had “thrown our budget a little out of whack,” and noted that the death toll was lower than the “real catastrophe” of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and surrounding areas in 2005.

Trump’s threats to limit the emergency worker footprint in Puerto Rico come as the House is set to vote Thursday on a $36.5 billion disaster aid package that includes provisions to avert a potential cash crisis in Puerto Rico prompted by Hurricane Maria.

Rosselló warned congressional leaders over the weekend that the U.S. territory is “on the brink of a massive liquidity crisis that will intensify in the immediate future.” The legislation set for a vote allows up to $4.9 billion in direct loans to local governments in a bid to ease Puerto Rico’s financial crunch.

Without congressional action, the territory may not be able to make its payroll or pay vendors by the end of the month.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that Puerto Rico must eventually “stand on its own two feet,” but that the federal government needs to continue to respond to the humanitarian crisis.

“We’re in the midst of a humanitarian crisis,” Ryan said. He added, “Yes, we need to make sure that Puerto Rico can begin to stand on its own two feet. … But at the moment there is a humanitarian crisis has to be attended to and this is an area where the federal government has a responsibility, and we’re acting on it.”

Top Democrats assailed Trump for his Thursday tweets on Puerto Rico. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Trump’s tweets “heartbreaking,” adding that “we are all Americans, and we owe them what they need.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted: “There is still devastation, Americans are still dying. FEMA needs to stay until the job is done.”

Another New York Democrat, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, who was born in Puerto Rico, said in a statement that the president’s “most solemn duty is to protect the safety and the security of the American people. By suggesting he might abdicate this responsibility for our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico, Mr. Trump has called into question his ability to lead. We will not allow the federal government to abandon Puerto Rico in its time of need.”

Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), said that those who live on the island “are American citizens and they deserve the federal assistance they need to recover and rebuild. The Chairman and the Committee fully stand by them in these efforts, and will continue to be at the ready to provide the victims of these devastating hurricanes with the necessary federal resources both now and in the future.”

Frelinghuysen is scheduled to be part of a delegation led by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that will visit Puerto Rico on Friday to see the hurricane’s devastation firsthand.

The president’s tweets on Thursday seemed to contradict Vice President Pence, who during a visit to the island last week vowed that the administration would be with Puerto Rico “every step of the way.”

“I say to all of you gathered here today to the people of Puerto Rico: We are with you, we stand with you, and we will be with you every single day until Puerto Rico is restored bigger and better than ever before,” he said.

Trump himself made a similar promise, saying in a Sept. 29 speech, “We will not rest, however, until the people of Puerto Rico are safe.” He added: “These are great people. We want them to be safe and sound and secure. And we will be there every day until that happens.”

Arelis R. Hernández in Puerto Rico and Mike DeBonis in Washington contributed to this report.

[The Washington Post]

Sanders lashes out at San Juan mayor for ‘making political statements’ instead of ‘helping her constituents’

When veteran White House correspondent April Ryan asked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about President Donald Trump’s “very controversial” visit to Puerto Rico earlier this week, the press secretary chose to attack San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

“Actually, it wasn’t controversial, and was widely praised,” Sanders said of the president’s visit in which he blamed the island territory for “throwing [the U.S.] budget out of whack” and compared their death toll to that of Hurricane Katrina.

“I think that it is sad that the mayor of San Juan chose to make that a political statement instead of a time of focusing on the relief efforts,” the press secretary continued.

Trump invited Cruz to a meeting of mayors with San Juan’s governor, Sanders continued, claiming Cruz did not speak up during the meeting and ask for what she needed.

“I hope next time she’s given the opportunity to help her constituents, she’ll take it,” Sanders concluded. She did not address the president’s own attacks on Cruz.

Media

 

Trump on Climate Change and Hurricanes: ‘We’ve Had Bigger Storms’

President Trump on Thursday dismissed the impact of climate change on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the two major storms to make landfall in the United States in the last month.

“We’ve had bigger storms,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One, following a trip to Florida to assess the impact of Irma.

Trump later ignored a question about his views on climate change, according to reporters traveling with him.

The president’s trip to Florida was the third he’s taken to survey damage from Harvey and Irma, both of which were unusual it their strength and severity.

Harvey broke the record for rainfall from a tropical cyclone in the United States, dropping more than 50 inches of rain on parts of Texas and Louisiana late last month, leaving Houston inundated.

Irma, at its peak, packed sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, making it one of the five strongest storms to form in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a Category 5 hurricane for three days and three hours, the second-longest for any storm on record.

Climatologists have said that while climate change didn’t cause the two monster storms, it likely exacerbated them and made them stronger.

Trump has said he doesn’t accept the scientific consensus of climate change, calling it a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese to undermine the American economy.

[The Hill]

Trump: Hurricanes are Helping the Coast Guard Improve Its ‘Brand’

President Trump said Sunday that the major hurricanes hitting the U.S. are improving the “brand” of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Trump told a reporter that the country has “great people” responding to the massive storms and that “a group that really deserves tremendous credit is the United States Coast Guard,” according to a White House pool report.

“What they’ve done – I mean, they’ve gone right into that, and you never know. When you go in there, you don’t know if you’re going to come out. They are really – if you talk about branding, no brand has improved more than the United States Coast Guard,” Trump said.

Trump also praised FEMA as “incredible” as Hurricane Irma made landfall on Florida on Sunday.

Trump’s comments came after returning from a Cabinet meeting at Camp David, where he and other administration officials received a briefing on Hurricane Irma.

Irma is the second major hurricane to strike the U.S. in recent weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas late last month.

[The Hill]

Despite Trump’s Dig, The Media Did Go ‘Into The Winds’ Of Hurricane Harvey

President Donald Trump cannot seem to suppress his contempt for the news media ― even when he is speaking about something completely unrelated.

In remarks to members of the United States military in Texas on Saturday, Trump singled out the Coast Guard for rescuing nearly 11,000 people stranded by Hurricane Harvey.

He then compared it to what he described as the relative lack of courage exhibited by journalists covering the storm.

“Think of it: almost 11,000 people ― by going into winds that the media would not go into. They will not go into those winds,” he said. “Unless it’s a really good story, in which case they will.”

The media apparently considered Hurricane Harvey a “really good story” though, because numerous journalists put themselves in harm’s way to cover the disaster ― often accompanying the very service members Trump was thanking.

In fact, many reporters, including HuffPost’s David Lohr, took part in rescue efforts as they encountered people struggling to survive the storm’s worst effects.

Trump has a famously rocky relationship with the news media, particularly national outlets, which he frequently derides as “fake news.” At a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Aug. 22, Trump spent more than 10 minutes denouncing the media’s treatment of him, complete with indictments of specific journalists and their outlets.

During a visit to a shelter in Houston on Saturday, however, Trump struck a slightly more conciliatory tone. The Texans he met are “really happy” with the federal recovery efforts he is managing, Trump told reporters, adding that he was pleasantly surprised to find that even the news media was recognizing his work.

“It’s been very well received ― even by you guys, it’s been well received,” Trump said.

[Huffington Post]

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