MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Arguing President Trump is “confused” and his comments “lack empathy,” the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, challenged the president for the second day in a row, telling CBS Miami Friday, “the people of Puerto Rico are concerned and frustrated with the fact recovery funds are flowing slowly, that we are treated as second class citizens.”
The back and forth between Rossello and the President started early in the week, when the President reportedly told Republican Senators during a private luncheon that Puerto Rico had received too much aid after being decimated by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and he didn’t believe more funding for the island was needed.
On Thursday Rossello, who had tried to court Trump, fired back, telling CNN, “If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth.” Rossello, who is not known for bombastic language, said he was speaking metaphorically, and he wanted Trump to know “It would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.”
The President responded Thursday afternoon by declaring that he had personally saved the island from ruination after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
“I’ve taken better care of Puerto Rico than any man ever,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “We have $91 billion going to Puerto Rico. We have 29 billion to Texas and 12 billion to Florida for the hurricanes. Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being. I think the people of Puerto Rico understand it.”
Rossello said the President’s comments “lack empathy as to what people are going through in Puerto Rico.”
Trump criticized Rossello and other leaders on the island, by saying: “They don’t know how to spend the money and they are not spending it wisely.”
Rossello said the President’s numbers were wrong and Puerto Rico has received nowhere near $91 billion.
“Really what has gotten to Puerto Rico is about $5 to $7 billion of emergency work, that means everything – to put roofs back on, to put the roads working, to pay emergency workers,” he said. “But in terms of reconstruction – the important part – how do we rebuild effectively for Puerto Rico? We only have 46 projects ongoing, which is about $86 million.”
In the past, Trump rated his efforts in Puerto Rico on a scale of 1-10 as being a 10. Rossello disagrees.
“The recovery is very poor,” he said. “It’s very poor relative to Katrina. So I want to give him the opportunity to respond, but it’s certainly not a 10.”
Rossello said he has been asking for a meeting with the President for months so he could explain what is happening, but Trump has so far refused to talk to him.
“He sat down with the dictator of North Korea, he sat down with the President of Russia,” he said. “Why he would be able to sit down with those two folks why wouldn’t he sit down with one of his governors?”
(The full interview with Governor Rossello airs Sunday, March 31, at 11:30 am on Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede.)