Trump Says We ‘Can’t Stay Forever’ in Puerto Rico, A Territory The U.S. Has Occupied For 119 Years

President Trump threatened to halt relief efforts in Puerto Rico, just three weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, as millions of American citizens still struggle without electricity and shortages of basic goods.

In a series of tweets on Thursday morning, Trump insisted:

“Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.” says Sharyl Attkisson. A total lack of…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2017

…accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2017

…We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2017

The American military has been in Puerto Rico for 119 years, since the island was seized from the Spain in the Spanish-American War. The residents of Puerto Rico have been United States citizens since 1917.

Threatening to withdraw assistance and disaster response just three weeks into an ongoing humanitarian disaster, drew a sharp rebuke from across the political spectrum. The backlash was not limited to Democrats, either.

Trump tweets about Puerto Rico, Speaker Ryan and Chief of Staff Kelly step in to mop up

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, quickly shot down any talk of federal responders being withdrawn:

At the moment, and it’s why I’m going down there tomorrow, there’s a humanitarian crisis that needs to be attended to and this is an area where the federal government has a responsibility, and we’re acting on it.

At a White House press briefing, when asked about the Tweet, Chief of Staff John Kelly replied:

I think he said the U.S. military and FEMA can’t be there forever. Right?

Q: He did. Yes. First responders, FEMA, and the military.

GENERAL KELLY: The minute you go anywhere as a first responder — and this would apply, certainly, to the military — you are trying very hard, working very hard to work yourself out of a job…. So this country, our country will stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done. But the tweet about FEMA and DOD — read: military — is exactly accurate. They’re not going to be there forever, and the whole point is to start to work yourself out of a job and then transition to the rebuilding process.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Chief of Staff John Kelly did their best to cover for President Trump’s ironic tweeting. Nonetheless, the decision to withdraw FEMA from Puerto Rico still rests with the President.

(Image of Donald Trump shrugging at the August, 2015 Fox News Republican primary debate via screenshot.)

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