WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his support of Puerto Rico in its rebuilding from hurricanes, but he doesn't think officials in the U.S. territory are spending federal assistance wisely.
"Puerto Rico has been taken better care of by Donald Trump than by any living human being," Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for Michigan.
Puerto Ricans and their government officials have complained that the U.S. response remains slow, but Trump told reporters there is $91 billion going to Puerto Rico. He said that's more than the amount earmarked for Florida and Texas hurricane recovery.
It's unclear how he's arrived at that number. Many federal agencies are sending assistance money and differing amounts have been authorized, but not yet allocated.
Trump said he thinks Puerto Ricans understand he's sending them a lot, but he took aim at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. She has been an outspoken critic of Trump since Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017 as a Category 4 storm. Gov. Ricardo Rossello has been critical as well, accusing the administration of erecting roadblocks to the funding.
"You do have a mayor of San Juan that frankly doesn't know what she's doing," Trump said. "And the governor ... they don't know how to spend the money and they're not spending it wisely."
Trump's opposition to further disaster aid for Puerto Rico hardened Tuesday during a Capitol Hill meeting. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Trump told Republicans at a closed-door luncheon that aid for Puerto Rico "is way out of proportion to what Texas and Florida and others have gotten."
Trump's stance sets up a showdown with House Democrats, who insist that a $13 billion-to-$14 billion disaster aid package that's a top priority for southern Republicans won't advance in Congress without further aid for the island.