President Biden jabbed at his predecessor, Donald Trump, Monday before heading to Puerto Rico to examine damage caused by Hurricane Fiona last month — telling reporters the island was not “taken very good care of” following Hurricane Maria in 2017.
“I’m heading to Puerto Rico because they haven’t been taken very good care of,” Biden said as he left the White House, with more than 100,000 homes in the US territory still without power two weeks after Fiona struck as a Category 1 storm.
“They’ve been trying like hell to catch up from the last hurricane,” the president added. “I want to see the state of affairs today and make sure we push everything we can.”
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico with devastating Category 4 winds eight months after Trump took office. The former TV host and real estate developer’s subsequent visit to the island was best remembered for the 45th president throwing rolls of paper towels into a crowd of locals as if they were souvenirs.
The post-Maria recovery was marred by local corruption and inefficiency.
More than 10 million water bottles were left unused on an airport tarmac and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority awarded a $300 million no-bid contract to rebuild the island’s electrical grid to a small Montana company linked to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The contract was later canceled amid scrutiny.
A former Federal Emergency Management Agency official pleaded guilty this year to accepting bribes from a different electrical company that was given $1.8 billion in contracts to rebuild infrastructure.
Trump defended his handling of the crisis and blamed local officials — including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who had said of Trump, “If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth.”
“Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being and I think the people of Puerto Rico understand it,” Trump said in 2019.
“You have the mayor of San Juan [Carmen Yulín Cruz] that, frankly, doesn’t know what she’s doing and the governor, they have to spend the money wisely. They don’t know how to spend the money and they’re not spending it wisely.”