Trump attacks San Juan mayor over criticism of hurricane response

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz rebuked the Trump administration over its hurricane response on Friday, September 29, 2017. (CNN Newsource) 

President Donald Trump alleged Saturday that “the Democrats” have ordered San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz to be “nasty” to him after she disputed the administration’s upbeat portrayal of its response to Hurricane Maria.

Cruz had reacted angrily Friday when acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke described the recovery effort in Puerto Rico as “a good news story.”

"Well maybe from where she's standing it's a good news story," Cruz said on CNN’s "New Day." "When you're drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from buildings -- I'm sorry, that really upsets me and frustrates me."

She called Duke’s comment “irresponsible” and suggested it conflicted with statements of support she received from the White House. She also blamed "bureaucracy" for delays in federal assistance.

"We are truly dying here.... If Mr. Trump can hear us, let's just get it over with and get the ball rolling," Cruz told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Friday night.

“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 on Saturday morning.

Trump claimed Cruz has shown “poor leadership” and said she and others in Puerto Rico “want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

“The military and first responders, despite no electric, roads, phones etc., have done an amazing job. Puerto Rico was totally destroyed,” he added before retweeting posts from military accounts showing federal workers providing humanitarian assistance.

Although military trucks have begun distributing water and food rations throughout the territory, thousands on the island are still without power and other resources.

Following Trump's tweetstorm, Cruz posted pictures of herself with rescuers and residents, saying, "The goal is one: saving lives. This is the time to show our 'true colors.' We cannot be distracted by anything else."

Appearing on MSNBC later in the morning, Cruz laughed off Trump's accusation that Democrats told her to criticize him, noting that the general in charge of the response has also said he does not have enough troops and equipment to get the situation under control.

"This isn't about me," she said. "This isn't about anyone. This is about lives that are being lost if things do not get done properly real quickly."

Duke attempted to clarify the “good news” comment while in San Juan Friday, saying she was happy about how hard everyone is working but she recognizes the recovery is far from over.

"The end of my statement about good news was it was good news that the people of Puerto Rico, the many public servants of the US and the government of Puerto Rico are working together,” Duke told reporters at San Juan International Airport, “and I do believe that that is the way -- part of the way -- we believe, and it's nice to see the communities together trying to recover and support each other."

Duke praised the work of the Department of Defense, FEMA, first responders, and local aid workers and said progress is being made.

"There's much, much more work to do and we will never be satisfied,” she said. “That's why we're here, that's why we're staying until people are back in their homes, the schools are open, and everyone is safe."

Trump is expected to visit Puerto Rico to survey the damage and the recovery effort himself on Tuesday.

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