According to a report in the Washington Post, the administration of former President Donald Trump purposefully lined up unprecedented obstacles to delay approximately $20 billion in hurricane relief for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico as revealed in an inspector general report that should be released very soon.
The 46-page report features the inspector general saying that it uncovered procedural obstacles created by the White House budget office to stall recovery aid, and that Trump administration officials also tried to obstruct the IG’s investigation into the delay by request of Congress back in 2019, after hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged the territory in 2017.
The report also states that the OMB added an extra step of approval that demanded the Department of Housing and Urban Developments’ notice of relief funds go through an interagency review process, which greatly slowed down the release of the funds, all of which the IG said had never previously been part of the process.
Former President Trump also had reportedly told two officials that he didn’t want any funds whatsoever going to Puerto Rico but instead be given to relief efforts in Florida and Texas.
HUD Deputy Secretary Brian Montgomery claims that the actions amounted to the White House holding disaster-relief funds “hostage.”
The Post added that former Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson and another former HUD official declined to be interviewed during the IG’s probe.
This report is just the latest example of Trump officials thwarting oversight investigations by federal watchdogs mandated by Congress to monitor federal agencies for fraud, waste, and other misconduct.
Meanwhile the Joe Biden administration removed what it claims were “onerous restrictions unique to Puerto Rico that limited the island’s access” to aid and pledged over $8 billion to support the island territories’ recovery.
HUD Secretary for the current administration, Marcia Fudge, explained in a statement:
“Since its first days, the Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized action to enable stronger recovery for Puerto Rico. The actions taken by HUD today will unlock access to funds Puerto Rico needs to recover from past disasters and build resilience to future storms, while ensuring transparency and accountability.”
Former acting secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke told the New York Times that Donald Trump’s first reaction to the devastating hurricane that hit Puerto Rico head-on in 2017 was to suggest that the United States sell, or “divest” from the territory.
Duke also told the Times that Trump cares little about policy, and uses “hate-filled, angry and divisive” language daily.
During her time as an acting secretary, she signed off on ending DACA, which was set up by the Obama administration to protect young documented workers known as Dreamers from being deported. Duke says she thought the program was illegal, but she was not ready to sign off on its closure. She added that she felt ambushed by Trump and his closest political allies during a White House meeting in August of 2017.
Duke shared as Hurricane Maria approached Puerto Rico in 2017 several cabinet members derided her for trying to urge Trump to take the situation more seriously. Duke adds that at first, Trump did show concern for the suffering taking place in Puerto Rico, but seemed to be disturbed by his first instincts on how he should react.
“The president’s initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know,” she stated. “Can we outsource the electricity? Can we can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?”
Duke says the idea to sell Puerto Rico was never seriously considered or brought up by Trump again after that initial meeting.