WASHINGTON – At a campaign rally in Panama City Beach Florida, President Trump promised Floridians more disaster dollars, while suggesting Puerto Ricans should be “grateful” for his administration’s response.
The president pledged to give $448 million in HUD disaster recovery funds to the state, so that residents can continue to rebound from the Category 5 Hurricane Michael, which hit in October 2018.
“That was not a nice hurricane, I can tell you that. But it’s going well,” Trump told the crowd. “We will have the federal government pay for 90 percent of the cost in many circumstances,” he said of the rebuild.
While talking hurricane recovery, the president whipped out a standard-sized paper chart to show how much the government spent on Puerto Rico. “I didn’t want it on a big board because that costs the government too much money,” he said of his print-out, which showed a bar chart, with the tallest bar going to Puerto Rico, the island territory decimated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. The storm caused nearly 3,000 deaths.
“Puerto Rico got $91 billion and I understand they don’t like me,” Trump said, repeating a statistic that earned him “three Pinocchios” from the Washington Post’s fact checker.
So far, $11.2 billion has been spent on Puerto Rico with another $40.8 billion allocated. The $91 billion figure comes from an Office of Management and Budget estimate of possible liabilities over the next 20 years.
“But you’re getting your money one way or another and we’re not going to let anybody hold it up,” Trump told the Florida crowd. “And I think that the people of Puerto Rico are very grateful to Donald Trump for what we’ve done for them,” he said.
During his nearly hour and a half long speech, Trump zigged and zagged, touching on the latest news – the House Judiciary Committee voting to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt – and his accomplishments.
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“We have a great attorney general – now the Democrats are saying, ‘We want more.’ Now they say the Mueller report. We want to start all over again. It is a disgrace.”
Trump deployed greatest hits, like criticizing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run – earning the predictable “Lock her up!” chant. He went even further back, reminding his supporters what he had said on the day he announced his presidential run.
“I talked about what’s happening. I mention the word rape,” he recalled. “I was absolutely, by the fake news media, they went after me. Guess what? That speech was so mild compared to what’s actually happening,” Trump continued, alluding to some of the horror stories from migrants trying to cross over the southern border.
His immigration chatter inspired several chants of, “Build the wall.”
That, Trump said, could be a solution, as the U.S. doesn’t allow border patrol agents to use weapons against them. “But how do you stop these people?” the president asked.
“Shoot them!” someone called out from the crowd.
With that, the president shook his head.
“That’s only in the panhandle you can get away with that statement,” Trump said. “Only in the panhandle.”
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