Trump: Puerto Rico put budget 'out of whack' but lives saved
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — President Donald Trump highlighted Puerto Rico's relatively low death toll compared with "a real catastrophe like Katrina" as he opened a tour of the island's devastation today, focusing on the best of the reviews he and his administration are getting rather than criticism of the federal response to Hurricane Maria.
Trump pledged an all-out effort to help the island but added: "Now I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack because we've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico. And that's fine. We've saved a lot of lives."
He said his visit was "not about me" but then praised local officials for offering kind words about the recovery effort and invited one to repeat the "nice things" she'd said earlier. Trump also singled out Gov. Ricardo Rossello for "giving us the highest praise."
"Every death is a horror," he said, "but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous, hundreds of and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here ... nobody's ever seen anything like this."
In Washington, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., noted many people in more remote areas are still in dire straits and in need of food and water. He told CNN, "Let's stop talking about the death count until this is over." It stands at 16 now, and 95 percent of electricity customers remain without power, including some hospitals.
The most prominent critic in Puerto Rico, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, attended Trump's 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.