Puerto Rico's governor warns Trump: 'If the bully gets close, I'll punch the bully in the mouth'

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is through playing nice with President Trump.

After months of soft-pedaling his criticism of the president as Puerto Rico struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017, Rosselló voiced his frustration with the White House in a Thursday interview with CNN.

"If the bully gets close, I'll punch the bully in the mouth," Rosselló said when asked about a tense meeting Wednesday between members of the Trump administration and Puerto Rican officials. "It would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with [lack of] courage."

President Trump meets with Fabiana Rosales, activist and wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, in Washington, D.C., on March 27. (Photo: AP/Susan Walsh)

The Washington meeting — which was attended by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and members of Rosselló’s government — was requested after reports that Trump was considering halting further disaster relief to the beleaguered U.S. territory.

In a Wednesday meeting with Senate Republicans, Trump said the amount of aid Puerto Rico had so far received “is way out of proportion to what Texas and Florida and others have gotten,” according to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who attended the meeting.

Though it has already slashed benefits, Puerto Rico faces a $600 million shortfall to administer food stamps. So far the U.S. government has spent more than $6 billion on disaster relief to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which was blamed for killing more than 3,000 people. In June, Texas received $5 billion in federal aid for housing and infrastructure repairs stemming from Hurricane Harvey, which left 103 people dead.

Rosselló, who avoided criticizing Trump in a 2018 interview with Yahoo News, lashed out at the president over his latest reported comments.

"He treats us as second-class citizens, that's for sure," Rosselló told CNN. "And my consideration is I just want the opportunity to explain to him why the data and information he's getting is wrong. I don't think getting into a kicking and screaming match with the president does any good. I don't think anyone can beat the president in a kicking and screaming match. What I am aiming to do is make sure reason prevails, that empathy prevails, that equality prevails and that we can have a discussion."

Trump, whose administration’s response to Maria was criticized as inadequate, has long been seen as reluctant to offer aid to Puerto Rico. In October the president again signaled his disapproval of giving aid that might be used to help alleviate the financial distress the island was experiencing even before Maria hit.

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