Trump Claims Hurricane Maria Response Was “One of Best Jobs That’s Ever Been Done”

He called the government’s efforts in Puerto Rico an “incredible, unsung success.”

President Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Susan Walsh/AP

As evacuations were ordered for more than 1 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia ahead of Hurricane Florence, President Donald Trump told reporters from the Oval Office that the government’s recovery efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria were an “incredible, unsung success.”

“I actually think it’s one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. The president did not mention that Hurricane Maria’s death toll is up to nearly 3,000 people—thousands more than those who perished in Hurricane Katrina, and 46 times more than the previous Puerto Rico government count of 64. Nor did he note that power was not fully restored to homes across the island for 11 months and millions remained without access to drinking water. Though the Puerto Rican government says water systems are returning to normal, some are still reportedly damaged, leaving many Puerto Ricans to distrust the water quality, the Guardian reported

The president’s remarks were made during an Oval Office meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long to discuss the White House’s planned response to Hurricane Florence. In the weeks after Maria hit the island, the Trump administration was heavily criticized for its slow response. At the time, Trump applauded the government’s recovery efforts and pitted blame on local officials, threatening at one point to pull relief aid altogether. In a July report, FEMA acknowledged that it “could have better anticipated that the severity of hurricanes Irma and Maria would cause long-term, significant damage” to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure. 

“Puerto Rico got hit not with one hurricane, but with two. And the problem with Puerto Rico is their electric grid and their electric-generating plant was dead before the storms ever hit. It was in very bad shape, it was in bankruptcy,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “And when the storm hit they had no electricity, essentially before the storm and when the storm hit that took it out entirely.”

Trump told reporters he spoke with the governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia and claimed that the government was ready to provide aid.  

“They haven’t seen anything like what’s coming at us in 25, 30 years, maybe ever. It’s tremendously big and tremendously wet, tremendous amounts of water,” Trump told reporters, adding: “They’re prepared. We’re prepared.”