Our president apparently stopped by a private weekly policy lunch for Republican Senators today essentially uninvited, according to the Washington Post. The purpose of his visit seemed to be mostly gloating about his “complete and total vindication” in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller—an inaccurate assessment of the report, which we still haven’t seen in full.
But Trump also took some time out of his supposedly busy schedule to vent about how much he hates giving aid to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
From the Post:
Trump noted to GOP senators that Texas — also battered by a spate of hurricanes — was awarded $29 billion in aid, while South Carolina got $1.5 billion to recover from storms. Trump then questioned why Puerto Rico was getting $91 billion, according to two people familiar with his comments, indicating that this was too much compared with compensation for states on the mainland.
Trump remarked that one could buy Puerto Rico four times over for $91 billion, according to people familiar with his comments.
As the Post points out, these numbers don’t seem to be accurate. Trump may be mixing up the amount of aid given to Puerto Rico with the cost of the damage done by Hurricane Maria. Oh well!
In reality, Congress has appropriated $20 billion in Department of Housing and Urban Development relief funds to the island, one kind of aid that the federal government can provide. But of that amount, only $1.5 billion has been approved for spending.
Earlier this month, Puerto Rico’s government cut the island’s food stamps program by 25 percent, bringing it back down to the level it was at before the hurricane. An astonishing 43 percent island’s population currently relies on food stamps. After the House passed a bill in January allocating $600 million in emergency funding for food stamps in the territory, Trump called the bill “excessive and unnecessary.”
It was also announced today that HUD will look into whether the White House has prevented disaster relief funding from reaching the island, in light of multiple private comments from Trump about his unwillingness to continue providing aid.
“We are in the process of looking into whether there has been any interference and do plan to report back to Congress on what we find‚” Jeremy Kirkland, counsel to the HUD inspector general’s office, said in response to questions from Rep. Maxine Waters in front of the House Financial Services Committee. “I know our folks are out there right now doing that.”
“The Trump Administration is committed to the complete recovery of Puerto Rico. The island has received unprecedented support and is on pace to receive tens of billions of dollars from taxpayers,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesperson, told the Post in an email. “However, the Trump Administration will not put taxpayers on the hook to correct a decades old spending crisis that has left the island with deep-rooted economic problems.”
“This is really serious and needs to be investigated to the fullest extent possible,” Federico A. de Jesús, senior adviser of the advocacy group Power 4 Puerto Rico, told the Post.