Leaked White House Memo Details Puerto Rico Spin: “The Storm Caused These Problems, Not Our Response”

Meanwhile, Trump is blaming “politically motivated ingrates” for criticism.

Residents of Ciales, just 45 minutes from San Juan, describe utter desperation, 10 days after Hurricane Maria devastated the town.AJ Vicens/Mother Jones

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When White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert returned from a trip to Puerto Rico last week, he got to work telling his colleagues exactly how the Trump administration could put a positive spin on the government’s troubled hurricane relief efforts, according to a leaked memo obtained by Axios.

“I hope to turn the corner on our public communications,” he wrote to White House staff, before detailing new, more-upbeat “themes” he’d like to see the administration highlight over the next couple of days. “Planned hits, tweets, tv bookings and other work will limit the need for reactionary efforts,” he wrote.

One of Bossert’s talking points for responding to criticism of the relief efforts: “The storm caused these problems, not our response to it.” Here’s a longer excerpt from the memo (and go over to Axios for the full report):

I recommend that today and tomorrow we use the general theme of supporting the governor and standing with the people of Puerto Rico to get them food, water, shelter and emergency medical care. Monday and Tuesday we can pivot hopefully to a theme of stabilizing as we address temporary housing and sustaining the flow of commodities and basic government services, including temporary power. After that we focus on restoration of basic services throughout next week and next weekend. Then we start a theme of recovery planning for the bright future that lies ahead for Puerto Rico. Planned hits, tweets, tv bookings and other work will limit the need for reactionary efforts.

The storm caused these problems, not our response to it. We have pushed about as much stuff and people through a tiny hole in as short a timeframe as possible.

Meanwhile, it didn’t take my colleague AJ Vicens long to find a town in Puerto Rico entirely cut off from the help Bossert asserts is making such a difference on the island.

“You are the first person to come here,” a woman told him. According to residents Vicens interviewed, none of the 10,000 federal workers on the island had made it to Ciales, just 45 minutes from San Juan, by the time he got there yesterday. People in the town described a scene of utter desperation. (Follow Vicens on Twitter for regular updates from the island.)

https://twitter.com/AJVicens/status/914503193027072000

But President Donald Trump appears to be ignoring whatever positive PR strategy his adviser Bossert is going with, instead tweeting on Sunday morning that only “Fake News” and “politically motivated ingrates” were criticizing his administration’s response.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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