'Golfing? Tweeting?': Clinton asks what Trump was doing when Puerto Rico crisis began

Colin Campbell
Managing Editor

Hillary Clinton told Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday that she was dumbfounded by President Trump’s priorities as Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20.

“What are you people spending your time doing, right?” Trump’s defeated Democratic opponent asked. “Golfing? Tweeting? Watching cable TV? I mean, find some time to tell the Navy to get down there and rescue people and provide food and provisions and medical care!”

Clinton’s comments on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” were part of a long riff in which she accused the White House of initially ignoring the unfolding crisis in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria crippled the infrastructure on the island of 3.4 million people, many of whom are still without electricity and are short on safe drinking water, food and other basics.

“I was right in the middle of our government responding to the horrible effects of the earthquakes in Haiti,” said Clinton, who was secretary of state in 2010 when a catastrophic quake hit that nation. “So I knew what we were capable of doing. And I waited, because I thought: They don’t need me saying, ‘Send naval assets. Get the hospital ship, Comfort, down there.’ But a couple days later, nothing was happening.”

She pointed to her Sept. 24 tweet urging Trump and the Defense Department to send the hospital-class ship Comfort to aid Puerto Ricans. FEMA announced two days later that the Navy would do “exactly that,” the Washington Post reported.

Based on Trump’s Twitter feed, the president — who spent that September weekend at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J. — had been preoccupied with the NFL protests. He took a brief trip to Alabama for a political rally, railed against North Korea and pushed for the repeal of Obamacare.

“Even though local officials had said publicly as early as Sept. 20, the day of the storm, that the island was ‘destroyed,’” the Post later reported, “the sense of urgency didn’t begin to penetrate the White House until Monday, when images of the utter destruction and desperation — and criticism of the administration’s response — began to appear on television, one senior administration official said.”

Trump would go on to tweet repeatedly about disaster response efforts in Puerto Rico, condemning critical local officials for “nasty” comments and supposedly “fake” media reports.

“A great day in Puerto Rico yesterday,” Trump tweeted this week after visiting the island. “While some of the news coverage is Fake, most showed great warmth and friendship.”

Clinton’s remarks were among the sharpest jabs she has taken at Trump during a round of appearances promoting her book about the 2016 election, “What Happened.”

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