Trump heads to Puerto Rico to survey damage amid criticism

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will come face to face with Puerto Ricans struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria on Tuesday, amid criticism that the federal government’s response has been sluggish. Pushing back, Trump has faulted local officials as “politically motivated ingrates.”

The president is expected to spend more than five hours on the ground, meeting with 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.”

“There’s nothing left. It’s been wiped out,” Trump said last week. “Nobody has ever seen anything like it.”

The trip will be Trump’s fourth to a region battered by storms during an unusually violent hurricane season that has also seen parts of Texas, Florida, Louisiana and the U.S. Virgin Islands inundated by floodwaters and whipped by winds.

It comes nearly two weeks after the storm and after a weekend in which Trump aggressively pushed back against critics, including San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. Trump responded angrily, deriding the “poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help” on Twitter.

“They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” he added, scoffing at “politically motivated ingrates” who had criticized the effort, and insisting that “tremendous progress” was being made.

Cruz has had accused the administration of “killing us with the inefficiency” and begged the president to “make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.”

Sanders said Cruz had been invited to participate in Tuesday’s events, but it was unclear whether she and the president would meet.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump are scheduled to attend briefings and meet with Gov. Ricardo Rossells, as well as the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. They’ll also meet with Navy and Marine Corps personnel on the flight Deck of the USS Kearsarge.

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