Puerto Rico will be an enduring stain on Trump's presidency

Two days after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump was busy kicking up a storm of hi...

Posted: May 31, 2018 11:43 AM
Updated: May 31, 2018 11:43 AM

Two days after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump was busy kicking up a storm of his own.

Speaking in Alabama on Friday night, September 22, 2017, Trump took aim at the small group of NFL players who were kneeling, during the national anthem, as a protest against racial injustice. Team owners, he said, should be meeting their demonstrations with calls to "get that son of a bitch off the field right now," adding theatrically: "He's fired!"

As the President blustered and baited, Puerto Rico suffered. According to the official count, 64 people died during and after the ravenous storm. That estimate was always assumed to be on the low end, but a new, independent study published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine has brought to bear something closer to the true depths of the tragedy. In their report, researchers from Harvard and other institutions placed the toll much higher, at more than 4,600 lives.

One-third of the fatalities, the study found, "were reported by household members as being caused by delayed or prevented access to medical care."

The magnitude of loss on the island -- and the continued suffering of both the people still there and those forced to flee -- will be a stain on the Trump administration that outlasts its time in Washington, a searing reminder of what's at risk when a society and its leaders reveal themselves to be unequipped, in every sense, to contend with a real disaster.

The new report is the latest in a series of more thorough, independent investigations into the storm's devastation. Last year, a CNN survey of Puerto Rican funeral homes, counting deaths from September 20 through October 19, put the number of those believed to be storm-related at 499. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yul-n Cruz, in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on November 3, offered a similar estimate.

By then, the initial shock and panicked relief efforts had passed. Reporters like CNN's Leyla Santiago kept close, but the news cycle never stopped spinning.

During the first two weeks after hurricane struck, Trump's Twitter feed featured a maddening mix of exhortations to vote in the Alabama special election primary, best wishes to the people caught in Maria's path, jabs at Republicans who opposed another failed Obamacare repeal push, tributes to FEMA and first responders, and repeated potshots at pro football players. Over time, as situation in Puerto Rico deteriorated and the administration faced criticism for its response, Trump turned bitter.

On September 25, he turned his ire on the island itself.

"Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble," he said in the first of a series of three tweets. "It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars ... owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well."

A day later, with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy looking on, Trump talked up the administration's "massive" efforts in the region, praised Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossell- for praising him, and explained - as if it were some newly discovered wonder - that rescue and recovery work in Puerto Rico was more complicated than in places like Texas because "it's on an island in the middle of the ocean. It's out in the ocean. You can't just drive your trucks there from other states."

Excuses in place, Trump by September 30 had settled on a villain. He leveled a series of attacks against Cruz, the San Juan mayor, in response to her criticism of the White House's relief work, as many on the island waited on help without power or access to clean water and medical aid.

"The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump," Trump tweeted early that morning. "They," he added, naming the mayor and "others in Puerto Rico," "want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort."

In an interview later that day with Orlando television station WKMG, Vice President Mike Pence echoed Trump's complaints, calling it "frustrating" for "millions of Americans to hear rhetoric coming out from some in Puerto Rico, particularly the mayor of San Juan, instead of focusing on results."

A few days later, Trump visited Puerto Rico, where he made a show of tossing paper towel rolls, like he was playing pop-a-shot basketball, to a crowd and compared the number of dead favorably -- "Sixteen people versus in the thousands" -- to what followed "a real catastrophe" like Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"That was a terrific visit," he told reporters on the flight home, "that visit was terrific."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 540277

Reported Deaths: 7022
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1125861667
Ramsey46611846
Dakota41151414
Anoka37226413
Washington24233273
Stearns20532215
St. Louis16380295
Scott15455116
Wright14317124
Olmsted1256996
Sherburne1020879
Carver946043
Clay765189
Rice7408100
Blue Earth676840
Kandiyohi618879
Crow Wing591786
Chisago535648
Otter Tail531673
Benton518396
Mower446032
Winona434549
Douglas432170
Goodhue429871
Nobles396147
Morrison382859
McLeod381154
Beltrami365057
Isanti360159
Polk358966
Itasca356851
Steele346614
Becker344848
Lyon341848
Carlton322152
Freeborn319429
Pine305321
Nicollet298542
Brown289139
Mille Lacs269547
Le Sueur265022
Todd264830
Cass241426
Meeker227037
Waseca225820
Martin209029
Wabasha19793
Roseau194018
Dodge16794
Hubbard167641
Renville167443
Redwood163335
Houston161814
Cottonwood151420
Fillmore15039
Pennington148419
Chippewa143636
Faribault141619
Wadena139820
Sibley132110
Aitkin126736
Kanabec124921
Watonwan12429
Rock120918
Jackson113010
Yellow Medicine108218
Pipestone107225
Murray10149
Pope9906
Swift97118
Marshall83717
Stevens79010
Lake77819
Wilkin75412
Clearwater75314
Koochiching74312
Lac qui Parle73022
Big Stone5544
Lincoln5532
Grant5388
Norman5119
Mahnomen4898
Unassigned48578
Kittson44322
Red Lake3796
Traverse3585
Lake of the Woods2932
Cook1440

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 354875

Reported Deaths: 5797
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55489598
Linn20153329
Scott18692234
Black Hawk15460306
Woodbury14773219
Johnson1384380
Dubuque13023202
Dallas1082196
Pottawattamie10612160
Story1024447
Warren548286
Clinton530789
Cerro Gordo518586
Webster506091
Sioux502673
Marshall476274
Muscatine454796
Des Moines439065
Wapello4245120
Buena Vista420940
Jasper406270
Plymouth393779
Lee366655
Marion353975
Jones292055
Henry285337
Bremer278260
Carroll277650
Crawford261539
Boone256131
Benton248955
Washington247849
Dickinson238643
Mahaska223049
Jackson216842
Kossuth211461
Clay208325
Tama206371
Delaware200939
Winneshiek192533
Page189020
Buchanan187331
Cedar182623
Fayette182641
Wright178635
Hardin178542
Hamilton176949
Harrison174673
Clayton165355
Butler161834
Mills157420
Cherokee156438
Floyd154342
Lyon153541
Poweshiek152133
Madison151919
Allamakee149051
Iowa144624
Hancock142634
Winnebago135331
Grundy134832
Cass133954
Calhoun133011
Jefferson130535
Emmet127140
Shelby126537
Louisa126049
Appanoose125847
Sac125819
Mitchell125241
Union123732
Chickasaw122015
Humboldt117926
Guthrie116728
Franklin112321
Palo Alto109622
Howard102622
Unassigned10030
Montgomery99737
Clarke98023
Keokuk94330
Monroe93128
Ida88533
Adair84032
Pocahontas83021
Monona80430
Davis79824
Greene76310
Lucas74822
Osceola73716
Worth6978
Taylor64812
Fremont60410
Decatur5889
Van Buren55318
Ringgold53322
Wayne51823
Audubon4939
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