Washington — On Thursday morning, President Trump tweeted that, “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.” Just a week before the one-year anniversary of hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump unleashed one of his most outrageous Twitter rants to date.
Both Carolinas, Florida and other parts of the east coast are currently at the mercy of hurricane Florence.
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…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
Earlier this month, the island’s governor formally raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to an estimated 2,975 from 64 following a study conducted by researchers at The George Washington University. CNN’s own reporting reflects similar numbers. The university study accounted for Puerto Ricans who succumbed to the stifling heat and other aftereffects of the storm and had not been previously counted in official figures.
Much of the U.S. territory was without power for months, marking the longest blackout in U.S. history. Trump, however, has consistently denied any fault for his administration in the aftermath of the storm — only escalating his attacks on Twitter yesterday. The President has sought praise for his handling of Hurricane Maria, saying earlier this week that it was “an incredible, unsung success.” The President’s most recent outburst continues his long history of insulating himself from criticism, with praise from his supporters, and sometimes, himself.
— Rep. Stacey Plaskett (@StaceyPlaskett) September 12, 2018
Despite the President’s words, FEMA is taking more proactive steps to avoid future disasters. In many areas, FEMA is doubling down on weaknesses — assisting and in some ways supporting the operations of organizations of long-term recovery groups like the St. Thomas Recovery Team. The long-term goal is to offset dependence on federal and local first responders after storms to include a more robust response in recovery, that includes resources from non-profits and international partners.
The President ended his Twitter rant saying, “I love Puerto Rico!” Later on Thursday, Puerto Rican governor, Richardo Rosselló fired back in an interview with CBS News saying, “Neither the people of Puerto Rico nor the victims deserve their pain to be questioned.”
…..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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Del. Stacey Plaskett, (D-VI) made an appearance on the Washington Journal Thursday to take aim at the President’s version of facts. In an interview with the Washington Journal minutes after Trumps tweet, the Congresswoman said, “[If] someone fires a gun off in a very crowded place and people stampede, you’re responsible if someone gets killed in that stampede — and that’s exactly what that 3,000 represents with that hurricane.”
Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) discusses Trump administration responses to Hurricanes Maria and Harvey in 2017, and the latest response to Hurricane Florence.
— Washington Journal (@cspanwj) September 13, 2018
Plaskett publicly condemned the President on Wednesday, saying that the President, “continues to disrespect Puerto Rico has he completely forgot about the Virgin Islands?”
Plaskett’s scolding is likely a response to an Oval Office meeting on Tuesday, where President Trump said “I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” adding, “It was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”
Earlier this month, House Democrats accused the Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, of failing to conduct a “fact-based investigation of what went wrong and who was responsible.”
Plaskett has been instrumental in assisting Governor Mapp with securing federal loans, grants and recently lead a congressional delegation that brought Minority House leader Nancy Pelosi to the Virgin Islands in July.
The report submitted by House Democrats — which Plaskett is a member of — details the disparity between the oversight of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria, pointing out that Gowdy held no full Committee hearings and didn’t request important documents from the White House.
The House Democrats’ report comes on the heels of another report in August that said Hurricane Maria is now considered the most deadly U.S. natural disaster in the last century. Puerto Rico’s government requested an independent review by George Washington University, which found Maria killed an estimated 2,975 people – more than 46 times the original official death toll of 64.
House Democrats charge that the Oversight Committee was “unable to adequately investigate key questions about the Trump administration’s response, such as the delay in appointing a commanding general, the apparent lack of presidential engagement and direction, the failure to lead a coordinated response and the wavering commitment to recovery and rebuilding.”
A Distracted White House
The White House has had a rocky summer as more details emerge from the special counsel investigating the Trump Organization. A series of convictions by former associates of President Trump have raised more questions about the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Earlier today, reports began to surface that long-time Trump associate Paul Manafort and special counsel Robert Muller were tentatively close to deal for a guilty plea after he was convicted in a separate case in Virginia. Manafort was found guilty on 8 counts, including tax fraud and bank fraud. Just minutes after his conviction, President Trump’s former lawyer and long-time personal fixer, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 felony charges.
The news particularly caught news organizations — including the White House — off guard when Cohen implicated the President of the United States in a campaign finance crime. Telling prosecutors that he was instructed to make an illegal payment with campaign funds to adult-film star Stormy Daniels for $130,000. Cohen went on to say that he was explicitly directed to make the payment by Donald Trump.
A slew of damning books have continued to cast a dark cloud over the West Wing, including a book by the acclaimed journalist who broke open the Watergate investigation of then President Nixon. Bob Woodward’s book, Fear: Trump in the White House sold over 750,000 copies on Amazon in the first day.
The New York Times Op-ed penned by an anonymous senior officials of the Trump administration might allude to how recovery efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam were handle last September. The author wrote a scathing letter, painting a picture of a White House in turmoil. “I am part of the resistance in the Trump administration,” reads the oped. The senior official identified by the New York Times wrote that staffers have made a habit of removing papers from the President’s desk, regularly distracting him and taking extreme measures to stop the President’s most dangerous impulses.
Accusations in the op-ed could be proof that President Trump in fact doesn’t have control of his own White House and never actually made critical decisions about aid packages sent to ailing U.S. territories last September. Last October, Donald Trump said that his I.Q. is “even higher” now that he knows that the United States Virgin Islands are part of the United States.