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Trump perpetuates falsehoods on hurricane aid as scandal rocks Puerto Rico's government

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President Trump on Thursday continued to spread misinformation about government aid to Puerto Rico after it was devastated by a 2017 hurricane.

“A lot of bad things are happening in Puerto Rico. The Governor is under siege,” he tweeted amid protests throughout the U.S. territory calling for the ouster of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. A political crisis has taken hold of the Puerto Rican government after hundreds of leaked messages showed the governor, Cabinet members and top aides mocking political opponents, allies and celebrities.

But Trump vastly overstated how much aid the federal government has delivered to Puerto Rico, claiming Congress “foolishly gave 92 Billion Dollars for hurricane relief.”

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing,  July 17, 2019, in Washington. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
President Trump speaks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

Congress has approved only $42 billion. The actual amount of aid the island has received is much smaller than the total that has been allocated. The Center for a New Economy, a Puerto Rican research think tank, estimated in a May report that the island has received about $12.6 billion.

Trump’s ire on Thursday focused on the FBI’s indictment last week of former senior officials who allegedly directed $15.5 million in federal funding for disaster relief after Hurricane Maria to politically connected contractors. Rosselló, who has refused to resign, was not among the six people indicted, which included a former education secretary and the director of the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz Soto and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló. (Photos: Carlos Giusti/AP)
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. (Photos: Carlos Giusti/AP)

The FBI indictment comes only a month after Congress passed a relief bill that included $1.4 billion in assistance to Puerto Rico.

Trump has repeatedly criticized congressional approval of aid to Puerto Rico, calling the island’s leaders “corrupt or incompetent.”

Trump’s Thursday tweets also attacked Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, as “a despicable and incompetent person who I wouldn’t trust under any circumstance.” Cruz, a vocal Trump critic and candidate for governor, was one of the many politicians mocked in Rosselló’s messages.

In one leaked text, Puerto Rico’s former chief financial officer, Christian Sobrino, writes, “I am salivating to shoot her,” referring to Cruz. Rosselló replied, “You do me a favor.” Other messages laced with profanity deride leaders of Rosselló’s own party, members of the LGBT community and journalists.

Cruz has urged people to join the protest against Rosselló. Unrest in San Juan has led to violent clashes with police, as officers in riot gear deploy tear gas and shoot at demonstrators with rubber bullets. Puerto Rican celebrities, like “Hamilton” playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda and singer Ricky Martin, have voiced support for the protests.

Singer Ricky Martin, left, waves the Puerto Rican flag during march against governor Ricardo Rosello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 17, 2019. Protesters are demanding Rossello step down for his involvement in a private chat in which he used profanities to describe an ex-New York City councilwoman and a federal control board overseeing the island's finance. (Photo: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/AP)
Singer Ricky Martin, left, waves the Puerto Rican flag during a march against Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday. (Photo: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/AP)


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