Remember when President Trump claimed in April that "corrupt or incompetent" Puerto Rico officials had badly bungled relief efforts following 2017's Hurricane Maria?
Remember how poorly politicos and journalists reacted to the president’s allegation, claiming that he was lying or being plain racist?
The FBI has arrested two former Puerto Rico officials for funneling disaster aid payments to politically connected contractors.
The Wednesday arrests have prompted concern on Capitol Hill that the island’s corruption will blunt the effectiveness of a recently passed disaster aid bill. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., has called for Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló's resignation, according to the Washington Post.
The FBI indictment charges Puerto Rico's former Education Secretary Julia Keleher, former Health Insurance Agency Chief Ángela Ávila-Marrero, and four others with crimes related to grifting U.S. disaster aid. Keleher and Ávila-Marrero both served in Rosselló's administration before leaving in April and June, respectively. Rosselló himself is not under investigation. Grijalva is the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which is overseeing the recovery effort on the island from Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The arrests come weeks after Congress passed a $19 billion disaster aid bill to the island that is still struggling after the September 2017 hurricane severely damaged the island's infrastructure and power grid.
Weirdly enough, Trump sort of called this in April when he went on a mini-Twitter rant accusing Democratic lawmakers of playing games with a funding bill.
Puerto Rico "politicians are incompetent or corrupt," he tweeted, adding, "their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess – nothing works. FEMA & the Military worked emergency miracles, but politicians like the crazed and incompetent Mayor of San Juan have done such a poor job of bringing the Island back to health."
Trump was savaged at the time by politicos, journalists, and commentators for suggesting Puerto Rico suffered in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria from the same sort of government corruption that exacerbated New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
“Donald Trump’s lie-filled rage tweets … continue a Trump pattern that mirrors a method that white supremacists have used throughout American history,” the level-headed Charles Blow theorized in his usually clunky and near-incomprehensible prose in the New York Times. “Particularly present since Reconstruction, this method involves proclaiming that minorities lack the character and capacity to create effective government, and therefore minority-led jurisdictions are a hopeless drain on resources.”
Sarah Jones said elsewhere for New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, “Trump’s long-standing antipathy for people of color is germane to his rhetoric on Puerto Rico. When he speaks, you don’t have to strain to hear the undertones for what they are. Stereotypes that depict poor people of color as moochers, takers, and welfare queens have been around a long time, and they’ve informed immigration and welfare reform stances in both major parties at various points in their histories."
“The argument that immigrants are violent job thieves stems from this source and so, too, do Trump’s falsehoods about Puerto Rico,” she added.
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote, "[Trump has] repeatedly complained that the funding going to the island was being wasted or spent to pay down that debt, without evidence."
"Trump always saw Puerto Rico’s government as questionable and wasteful and then apparently seized on that idea to rationalize his arguments that the island was receiving too much money," Bump added.
Surely they will all print follow-ups, acknowledging the oversight, admitting that the president and his allies were correct about Puerto Rican relief efforts being stymied by corrupt local officials.
by Becket Adams
| July 12, 2019 06:12 PM