Trump: ‘We’ll Be There’ for Puerto Rico, a Day After Critical Messages – New York Times

“Well, guess what?” he said. “We’re saying Merry Christmas again.”

Mr. Trump has sent conflicting messages about Puerto Rico for weeks, at times offering expressions of resolve to help those devastated by the storms and at others seeming to blame the island for its own troubles and lashing out at people who have complained about an inadequate federal response. The contrast with his more consistent approach toward Florida and Texas when they were struck by hurricanes has fueled suspicions about why he has treated the predominantly Hispanic island differently.

The president’s tweets on Thursday about Puerto Rico generated anxiety. In those messages, Mr. Trump noted that the island had already been caught up in a financial crisis “largely of their own making” with “a total lack of accountability” and an infrastructure that “was disaster before hurricanes.” He added that, “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

The island’s governor quickly telephoned the White House chief of staff seeking clarification and was reassured that the federal government remained committed to Puerto Rico. Mr. Trump’s advisers spent the rest of the day sending that message, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency posted its own Twitter message promising Puerto Rico it would be there “every day” to help get through the crisis.

Three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, 83 percent of the island was still without power, 36 percent had no running water and 45 percent was without telecommunication services. Hospitals were operating on generators, and while most supermarkets were open again, the government was struggling to ensure that they were stocked.

The House on Thursday approved $36.5 billion more in aid to Puerto Rico and other areas hit recently by natural disasters, adding on to a $15.3 billion relief measure in September. Speaker Paul D. Ryan was leading a bipartisan delegation to visit Puerto Rico on Friday for a firsthand assessment of the damage and the requirements for recovery.

Mr. Trump, who has used Twitter in the morning to vent his latest grievances or frame his latest fights, went after Democrats, President Barack Obama’s health care program and the “fake news” media on Friday morning.

A day after announcing that he would cut off subsidies to insurance companies and signing an executive order that critics said would undercut Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Mr. Trump argued that Democrats should work with him to repair the program.

“The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding,” he wrote. “Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!” He added that he would continue to dismantle the program using executive power. “ObamaCare is a broken mess,” he wrote. “Piece by piece we will now begin the process of giving America the great HealthCare it deserves!”

He also assailed the opposition party on immigration. “Hard to believe that the Democrats, who have gone so far LEFT that they are no longer recognizable, are fighting so hard for Sanctuary crime,” he said, referring to sanctuary cities that limit assistance to federal authorities cracking down on illegal immigrants.

He also pressed his campaign against NBC News, which like other media outlets has angered the president with reports on turmoil within his administration, reports that he disputes. Mr. Trump, who this week threatened to try to revoke NBC’s license, even though it does not have one, retweeted a message from Bill O’Reilly, the former Fox News host, who wrote, “The President will not be able to impact licenses, but he is doing major damage to the @NBC brand.”

Mr. Trump added, “Sadly, they and others are Fake News, and the public is just beginning to figure it out!”

Mr. O’Reilly, who once had one of the leading brands in cable television, was forced out by Fox in April after the disclosure of a series of sexual harassment accusations against him.


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