The Slatest

After Prompt From TV Personality, Trump Threatens to Abandon Puerto Rico

Donald Trump gets his photo taken in Puerto Rico.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

After apparently seeing something on the TV, President Donald Trump threatened to pull federal support out of Puerto Rico three weeks into the still hurricane-devastated island’s recovery efforts.

The threat comes as officials in Puerto Rico increased the death toll from last month’s Hurricane Maria to 45, with 113 people still unaccounted for. As of Thursday, 83 percent of the island was without power. According to the Washington Post, local officials expected many of these Americans to be without electricity for another six months.

It was under these circumstances that President Trump cited Sharyl Attkisson, host of the public affairs show Full Measure With Sharyl Attkisson on the right-wing media network Sinclair Broadcast Group, in threatening to pull support out of Puerto Rico.

The threats come at a precarious time for the island, with Congress considering a previously bipartisan measure to extend disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico and other American areas recently struck by a series of devastating climate catastrophes.

The House of Representatives was set to weigh $36.5 billion in new spending, Reuters reports, including $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund and $4.9 billion in loans to ensure local governments in Puerto Rico remain operating beyond the end of this month.

Trump promised two weeks ago that “we will not rest … until the people of Puerto Rico are safe.”

“These are great people,” he added. “We want them to be safe and sound and secure, and we will be there every day until that happens.”

As the Washington Post notes, Vice President Mike Pence made a similar promise earlier this week during a commemoration ceremony for Hispanic Heritage Month.

“I say to all of you gathered here today [and] to the people of Puerto Rico: We are with you, we stand with you, and we will be with you every single day until Puerto Rico is restored bigger and better than ever before,” he said. “Puerto Rico se levanta!”

Here are some more of the problems that remain in Puerto Rico, as the president threatens to pull federal support:

  • CNN reports that “[a]t least two people have died from leptospirosis, which spreads when the urine of infected animals gets into drinking water.”
  • About 39 percent of the island’s 313 bank branches are closed.
  • About 45 percent of the island is without phone service.
  • The Washington Post reported that 37 percent of the island’s residents are still without clean drinking water and 40 percent of wastewater treatment facilities remained nonoperational.
  • CNN reports that hospitals have been running low on medicine and fuel and local officials expect the death toll to mount.

Before the storm hit, the American territory of 3.4 million people was facing $72 billion in debt that was being overseen by a federal oversight board.* The U.S. territory, which has no representation in the federal government because it is not a state, has a population larger than 21 American states.

*Correction, Oct. 12, 2017: This post originally misstated the amount of Puerto Rico’s debt. It’s $72 billion, not $72.