A new storm for Puerto Rico
President Donald Trump is personally engaged. His top officials are fully mobilized. The mission: Discredit San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, the face and voice of discontent over the speed and strength of the federal response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
On Friday, Cruz snapped at the administration’s assessment of its effort as a “good news story.” She complained Washington was “killing us with the inefficiency.”
Trump unleashed his Twitter on her over the weekend. “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan,” said one tweet. Only “the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates” won’t say that “we have done a great job.”
On the Sunday shows, budget chief Mick Mulvaney accused Cruz of failing to coordinate with FEMA. The head of that agency, Brock Long, dismissed Cruz and other critics who “spout off.” Back on Twitter, Trump social media director Dan Scavino called Cruz a “@realDonaldTrump hater” who had endorsed Hillary Clinton last year.
See Newsday’s story by David M. Schwartz and Emily Ngo.
I’m OK, you’re OK
Trump worked the phones, collecting testimonials from other Puerto Rico officials, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. White House statements said they praised each other for their leadership.
Cleanup on the isla
The Trump surrogates eased away from another incendiary presidential tweet, which said of Cruz and other, unnamed Puerto Ricans: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.” To some Puerto Ricans, it sounded like Trump was calling them lazy.
Long said, “I believe the Puerto Ricans are pulling their weight.”
Mulvaney, deflecting, said: “I think what the president’s trying to get at is that folks think this is going to be easy. ... This was always going to be harder [than relief for the hurricanes in Texas and Florida], we knew that.”
Did they? The Washington Post reports the administration was slow to realize that with devastation so massive and power, communications and transportation networks obliterated, the local governments with which FEMA usually partners were knocked out, too.
The take-away: Spare change
Much that Trump got elected promising to change remains the same, and so America and the world entering the final quarter of 2017 isn’t all that different from 2016, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Some examples: Obamacare is still on the books. North Korea is still a hostile, nuke-wielding force. Our relations with Russia remain strained. Plans to cut taxes are sketchy. There’s still no infrastructure plan. The border wall with Mexico is in a show-and-tell phase.
Mass shooting reaction
The president said via Twitter at 7:11 a.m in reaction to the mass shooting in Nevada, reported by then to have taken more than 50 lives: "My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!" He was due to deliver remarks at 10:30 a.m.
No more talking on North Korea?
Trump tweeted that there’s no point in talking to North Korea about its nuclear threats, a day after his top diplomat said there were open channels of communication with Kim Jong Un’s government, reports Schwartz of Newsday.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. ... Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
As is often the case, it wasn’t clear what Trump meant by that — and by seeming to undercut Tillerson. A State Department spokeswoman tweeted later: “Diplomatic channels are open for #KimJongUn for now. They won’t be open forever.”
Check their flight privilege
Tom Price has become the charter member of the former Trump cabinet officials club following exposure of his pricey charter jet travel at taxpayers’ expense while Health and Human Services secretary. Other officials’ air-travel choices have also come under scrutiny.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that his use of a government jet to travel to Kentucky in August with his wife to view the solar eclipse and speak to business leaders was “completely justifiable.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin flew commercial to Europe on an official trip in July, but took timeouts to attend Wimbledon tennis and hit other tourist spots, The Washington Post reported. His wife joined him, also at taxpayer expense.
Ex-con grabs Trump’s coattail
Former Rep. Michael Grimm, a Staten Island Republican, left Congress in 2015 and spent 7 months in federal prison for tax evasion.
On Sunday, he announced he was running for his old seat, with the pitch that he’ll be a more faithful ally of Trump than his successor, Rep. Dan Donovan, also a Republican.
“Together we’ll go to Washington and have our president’s back,” Grimm told supporters. He denounced Donovan as part of “the swamp.”
What else is happening
- Trump left his New Jersey golf resort Sunday to attend the Presidents Cup golf tournament in Jersey City. Accepting the trophy for the U.S. team, he dedicated it to victims of recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida.
- Several dozen NFL players, fewer than last week, chose to kneel during the national anthem Sunday. Trump has demanded that the league ban the protests.
- Mnuchin was asked on ABC’s “This Week” how — without seeing Trump’s tax returns — could Americans know whether the president would benefit from his tax proposals. “I think the American public will be comfortable with the information they have,” Mnuchin said.
- Who might Democrats run against Trump in 2020? The New York Times looked at more than 30 possible contenders.
- Democrats who welcomed Trump’s willingness to make a deal preserving the protections of DACA are facing a backlash, The Times reports. Some advocates oppose any concessions that would toughen immigration enforcement, the Times reports.
- Canada is looking to take advantage of less welcoming U.S. policies on immigration to lure top tech talent from around the world to its universities and industry, Politico reports.
- Ohio's GOP Gov. John Kasich says: “If the Republican Party is going to be anti-immigration, if it’s not going to be worried about debt, if it’s going to be anti-trade, this is not where our party can be.”