I was going to let this story slide (where that means not waste time documenting Donald Trump’s ongoing efforts to actively sabotage hurricane cleanup efforts), but on a second read, it’s worth mentioning if for no other reason than to underscore the sheer, blatant depravity that permeates the President’s thought process.
Back in August, researchers at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University released the results of a study commissioned by Puerto Rico. That study sought to “accurately estimate the excess number of deaths due to Hurricane MarÃa” and as it turns out, the official death toll was just a bit off. Specifically, the U.S. territory’s official count was 64 prior to the study and as of August, that official tally was 2,975.
That news came at a bad time. Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the Carolina coastline and the Trump administration was at pains to reassure everyone that lessons were learned from the mistakes made in Puerto Rico.
For Trump, though, there were no “mistakes” made after Hurricane MarÃa decimated the island. In fact, on August 29, Trump said he “thinks most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we’ve done”.
He proceeded to double down on that two weeks later when, while speaking in the Oval Office about Hurricane Florence, Trump called the Puerto Rico effort “incredibly successful”, before immediately one-upping himself, contending that the response to Maria was “an unsung success” and “one of the best jobs that’s ever been done.”
Then, in one of the more egregious tweets of his entire presidency, Trump said this on September 13:
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.
This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!
That of course was not the first time he insulted Puerto Rican hurricane victims. Those interested in taking a (painful, if exceedingly amusing) trip down memory lane can review the entire video history of Trump’s post-MarÃa response in the linked post above, but suffice to say that in the wake of the disaster, he ended up in an extremely contentious Twitter dispute with San Juan Mayor Carmen YulÃn Cruz that culminated in a September 30, 2017 Twitter barrage which found Trump accusing Puerto Ricans of being lazy freeloaders.
Long story short, Trump never seemed to appreciate the extent to which the U.S. has an obligation to help Puerto Rico and according to Axios, his misreading of an October Wall Street Journal article recently prompted the President to suggest cutting off federal aide money to the island because he believes it’s being used to pay off debt. Worse, he actually wants to try and take some of the money that’s already been set aside back. Here’s Axios:
In late October, Trump grew furious after reading a Wall Street Journal article by Matt Wirz, according to five sources familiar with the president’s reaction. The article said that “Puerto Rico bond prices soared … after the federal oversight board that runs the U.S. territory’s finances released a revised fiscal plan that raises expectations for disaster funding and economic growth.”
Sources with direct knowledge told me Trump concluded – without evidence – that Puerto Rico’s government was scamming federal disaster funds to pay down its debt.
On October 23, Trump called the island’s politicians “inept” on the way to accusing them of “trying to use the massive and ridiculously high amounts of hurricane/disaster funding to pay off other obligations.”
He wasn’t done. “The U.S. will NOT bail out long outstanding & unpaid obligations with hurricane relief money!”, he went on to shriek, to nobody in particular on Twitter.
Shortly after that tweet, Bloomberg refuted his contention, explaining that “neither the island’s leaders — nor the board installed by the U.S. to oversee its budget — are proposing using disaster recovery aid to directly pay off bondholders or other lenders.”
In that linked article, Bloomberg’s Jonathan Levin and Michelle Kaske remind you that Trump has tried this before. “In June, he said Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello ‘was very brilliant’ because he ‘blamed the hurricane for destroying the power plant'”, Levin and Kaske wrote, before dryly noting that “it was never clear which ‘power plant’ he meant.”
In other words, “it was never clear” what Trump was talking about with regard to his baseless accusations against Puerto Rican officials because it’s “never clear” what Trump is talking about ever, with regard to anything. And because his reading comprehension skills are famously bad, he’s prone to drawing spurious conclusions, which is apparently what happened here. “One source said Trump misinterpreted the Journal article”, Axios goes on to write, in their Monday piece.
Basically, this is what you get when racism meets stupidity meets illiteracy meets a penchant for conspiracy theories.
And as Vanity Fair’s Bess Levin reminds you, “California–where 31 people are dead, 228 are missing, 6,453 homes have been destroyed, and only 25 percent of the fire has been contained thus far–is getting a taste of the fun, too”…