Investigating Trump’s Failed Response to Hurricanes in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Roselló, U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump

According to a new report from the Washington Post, President Trump “did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico” in the wake of hurricanes that left thousands dead and millions without electricity. The Post cites the president’s intervention in disaster-relief funding as a factor in the recent departure of a top Housing and Urban Development official who oversaw Puerto Rico relief efforts, and reports that instead of sending the money to the island, which he believed was misusing it, Trump wanted the money to go to Florida and Texas.

“This would be unbelievable if it weren’t becoming the hallmark of the Trump presidency: petty abuse of power to settle political scores, regardless of how many Americans get hurt along the way,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “If the Trump administration were deliberately choking off relief funds to Puerto Rico, there’s going to be a paper trail, and we’re going to expose the truth.”

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017, many reports emerged of a mismanaged contracting processes for emergency meals and failure on the part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in providing fuel for preserving food and medicine. In October 2018, American Oversight sued FEMA to shed light on the administration’s failed response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma. American Oversight’s suit seeks FEMA communications related to contracts awarded to provide emergency meals, including canceled contracts; FEMA communications with retailers in Puerto Rico, Congress, and Puerto Rican officials regarding retailers’ requests for fuel or their decisions to dispose of perishable or non-perishable items; and FEMA threat assessments or contingency plans prepared prior to the hurricanes’ arrival in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The suit is part of American Oversight’s Parallel Investigations Initiative, which targets documents that are also sought by Congress. Members of the House and Senate, including House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, have demanded the documents at issue in American Oversight’s suit.