PHILADELPHIA (CNN) – President Donald Trump sought Friday morning to repair political damage by telling Puerto Rico “I will always be with them.”
The day before, he ignited outrage after he said federal aid can’t be there “forever,” suggesting that Puerto Rico is going to have to shoulder more responsibility for recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria. The island is still reeling from a lack of electricity, public health access and a rising death toll.
The remarks quickly prompted cries from Democratic lawmakers, who argue that Puerto Rico still needs a lot of help, as well as the mayor of San Juan, who said they were “unbecoming” and appeared to come from a “hater in chief.”
Trump tweeted Friday, “The wonderful people of Puerto Rico, with their unmatched spirit, know how bad things were before the H’s. I will always be with them!”
But on Thursday, he blamed the beleaguered island for a financial crisis “largely of their own making” and infrastructure that was a “disaster” before the hurricane.
The President wrote in two separate tweets, “‘Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.’ says Sharyl Attkisson. A total lack of……..accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend…”
He continued in a third tweet: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
Attkisson is a journalist who works for conservative Sinclair Broadcasting.
A FEMA official told CNN Thursday the agency has “no hard deadline” on when it plans to pull resources from the island.
House Speaker Paul Ryan will lead a bipartisan delegation visiting Puerto Rico on Friday, according to the speaker’s office.
Ryan will travel to the island with House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the panel.
Puerto Rico’s sole representative in Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, and House GOP Conference Chairwoman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers also will be part of the congressional delegation.
The House of Representatives approved a $36.5 billion disaster aid package Thursday to help victims struggling to recover from a string of devastating hurricanes and wildfires. The measure now heads to the Senate, which returns from a weeklong recess next week.
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