Donald Trump praised rescue efforts and cooperation on his trip to Puerto Rico. But he took time out to address his new nemesis.
While offering to help the people of Puerto Rico in any way he could, President Trump hit back cagily at Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, saying that her union truck drivers “need to start driving” medicine and supplies.
The mayor was said to have sat “scowling” and trying to ignore Trump during a meeting with government and emergency officials.
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President Trump on Tuesday heaped praise on federal and local officials for their response to Hurricane Maria in his first remarks after landing on the storm-ravaged island — but pointedly left out the mayor of San Juan, with whom he’s been embroiled in a Twitter feud.
A jovial Trump, seated at a table between Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and first lady Melania Trump, repeatedly singled out elected officials and military leaders both for their efforts and for their praise of his administration.
In his remarks on Rosselló, Trump appeared to be taking a veiled shot at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, whom the president attacked over the weekend for her criticism of the federal response efforts.
“He’s not even from my party, but he started right from the beginning appreciating what we did,” Trump said of Rosselló in remarks at a National Guard base. “This governor did not play politics. He didn’t play it all. He was saying it like it was and he was giving us the highest grades.”
Cruz attended the briefing, but sat far away from the president. Trump did not mention her during his remarks, even as he cast praise widely on other federal and territory officials for their work, including the island’s representative in Congress, Jennifer González-Colón (R).
The two leaders did shake hands upon Trump’s arrival in Puerto Rico.
Speaking at the White House earlier Tuesday, Trump signaled he wanted to move past the spat.
“I think she’s come back a long way. I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that,” he told reporters.
Trump’s Puerto Rico visit is a test of his ability to play the role of consoler in chief.
The president has been deeply critical of people who have questioned the federal response efforts, calling them “politically motivated ingrates” who aren’t doing enough to help their communities.
He also blasted the “poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”
On Tuesday, however, Trump came face-to-face with survivors of the Category 4 storm. A majority of the U.S. island territory’s 3.4 million citizens remain without power, adequate food and clean drinking water. Many citizens on the island have complained authorities have been slow to deliver relief supplies.
The president showed he will stick with his freewheeling style, even in a place facing a humanitarian crisis.
After making remarks, he walked around a neighborhood damaged by the storm and shook hands with local residents.