Why Can’t President Trump Say That Puerto Ricans Are US Citizens?

Oct 10, 2017
10:35 AM

The following is a series of excerpts from the White House’s official page, which contains the transcripts of President Trump’s comments since September 26 about Puerto Rico. Nowhere in any of the President’s comments does he specifically say that the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are American citizens. Seriously.

September 26, 2017: Roosevelt Room, the White House

Q Mr. President, how much money do you think Puerto Rico needs?

THE PRESIDENT: Puerto Rico needs a lot of money. I’m going to Puerto Rico on Tuesday — scheduled trip. It’s the earliest I can go because of the first responders, and we don’t want to disrupt the relief efforts. You know, they’re going through a lot. The mayor of San Juan was very generous and very nice this morning. He was thanking us for the great job we’ve done with FEMA, that — we really have. We have worked very, very hard in Puerto Rico.

It’s very tough because it’s an island. In Texas, we can ship the trucks right out there. And you know, we’ve gotten A-pluses on Texas and on Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico. But the difference is, this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. And it’s a big ocean; it’s a very big ocean. And we’re doing a really good job.

I want to go there. Tuesday seems to be the first time we can do, without really disrupting first responders and the efforts that are being made to help people. We have shipped massive amounts of food and water and supplies to Puerto Rico, and we are continuing to do it on an hourly basis.

But that island was hit as hard as you could hit. When you see 200-mile-an-hour winds — even Texas didn’t have 200-mile-an-hour winds, right? But when you see 200 miles and even more than that — 200-mile-an-hour winds hitting a place and literally houses are just demolished. It was like tornados. It was like having hundreds of tornados — the winds.

So we’ve never seen it. It actually touched down as a Category 5. People have never seen anything like that. And it was dead center. I mean, you couldn’t be any more. And don’t forget, a week before, it got hit by another hurricane. Now, that one brushed it, but that did tremendous damage too.

So Puerto Rico has tremendous problems with floods and with damage and collapse. I mean, we’re still looking for people. We’re still looking for people. But I’m going to be going there on Tuesday, and I may also stop at the Virgin Islands. The governor there has done a terrific job of — I mean, he’s been devastated, but he’s done a terrific job. He’s been very generous with what he said about the relief effort.

The FEMA folks have worked so hard. You know, we thought after Texas they could take a little bit of a rest — FEMA. What they have done is incredible. So to go from Texas to Florida, they happened to stop at Louisiana in between, and now Puerto Rico gets hit. But they’ve been there and they’ve been doing a really good job.

So I’ll be there on Tuesday, and perhaps some of you will be with me.

Q Is Puerto Rico getting all the help it needs from you, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Puerto Rico is very important to me, and Puerto Rico — the people are fantastic people. I grew up in New York, so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans. And these are great people, and we have to help them. The island is devastated.

And some people say — I read this morning — it’s literally destroyed. The infrastructure was in bad shape, as you know, in Puerto Rico, before the storm. And now, in many cases, it has no infrastructure. So you’re really starting from almost scratch.

But these are great people — wonderful people. They’re hardy people. They’ll be back. But we’re helping them. I mean, I think we’re really getting really good marks for the work we’re doing. We are literally landing water, food, supplies on an hourly basis. And this is to an airport that has been devastated. We’re not talking about runways that are open and, you know — please land your plane right here. These are — these runways are devastated and broken. The airports are broken.

So those people are very important to all of us. I think I can speak for everybody sitting around this table. So we’re working very, very hard on Puerto Rico and we’re also getting tremendous efforts and we’re sending tremendous amounts of supplies to the Virgin Islands.

Thank you very much, everybody.

September 26, 2017: Rose Garden, the White House

Before we begin, I’d like to take a moment to send America’s hearts and prayers to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Both have been devastated — and I mean absolutely devastated — by Hurricane Maria, and we’re doing everything in our power to help the hard-hit people of both places, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. And a massive effort is underway, and we have been really treated very, very nicely by the governor and by everybody else. They know how hard we’re working and what a good job we’re doing.

As we speak, FEMA, our great first responders, and all available federal resources, including the military, are being marshaled to save lives, protect families, and begin a long and very, very difficult restoration process. I have directed all relevant departments and agencies to assist in the response and recovery effort.

As Governor Rosselló just told me this morning, the entire federal workforce is doing great work in Puerto Rico, and I appreciated his saying it. And he’s saying it to anybody that will listen. Our team has been incredible after having gone through Texas and then Florida, with other stops along the way. And he further went on and he said, “And through the Trump administration’s leadership, the relationship between FEMA and my team is very, very strong.” I will be going to Puerto Rico on Tuesday. I’ll also be going to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Over the last several weeks our nation has been tested by the destructive force of Mother Nature, but we will respond to it with an even mightier force: the resolve of the American spirit. Texas, Louisiana, and Florida are in really good shape and moving along well. We thank all of the first responders and volunteers who have risked their lives. And that’s what they did — they risked their lives.

To all of those impacted by the trouble and these horrible hurricanes and storms that have affected and impacted our country, I thank you. The recovery process will be a very, very difficult one. We will get through this, and we will get through it together. We will be stronger. We will be bigger. We will be better. Thank you very much.

September 27, 2017: Indianapolis, IN

Let me begin by saying that our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands who are suffering in the wake of yet another catastrophic hurricane. I mean, their island was virtually destroyed. Federal agencies are working closely with local partners to help these communities get back on their feet as soon as possible.

Texas, Florida, and Louisiana are doing great, and the recovery process is happening very, very quickly.

I will be going down to Puerto Rico next week to get an on-the-ground briefing about the disaster recovery and to see all of our great first responders and to meet a lot of the people who were so affected by these storms. We are with you now, I tell them, and we will be there every step of the way until this job is done. It is truly catastrophic what happened in Puerto Rico. (Applause.)

And massive amounts of water, food, and supplies, by the way, are being delivered on an hourly basis. It’s something that nobody has ever seen before from this country, I can tell you that. And I’m very proud of all of the folks that have worked so hard in FEMA, all of our first responders, all of our police that have gone to the island because their police force has been so badly affected. And many of their policemen — in fact, most of the police people have lost their homes, and it’s been a tough go. But we are — we’re going to get it back.

September 29, 2017: Washington, D.C.

I’d like to begin by sending our thoughts and prayers to the people of Puerto Rico who have been struck by storms of historic and catastrophic severity. People have never seen anything like this. We’ve undertaken a massive federal mobilization to assist Puerto Rico, including the presence of over 10,000 federal personnel, including 5,000 U.S. military and National Guard personnel, led by a very, very strong and talented three-star general.

All appropriate departments of our government, from Homeland Security to Defense, are engaged fully in the disaster and the response and recovery effort — probably has never been seen for something like this. This is an island surrounded by water — big water, ocean water.

We’re closely coordinated with the territorial and local governments, which are totally and, unfortunately, unable to handle this catastrophic crisis on their own. Just totally unable to. The police and truck drivers are very substantially gone. They’re taking care of their families and largely unable to get involved, largely unable to help. Therefore, we’re forced to bring in truck drivers, security, and many, many other personnel, by the thousands. And we’re bringing them onto the island as we speak. We’ve never seen a situation like this.

The electrical grid and other infrastructure were already in very, very poor shape. They were at their life’s end prior to the hurricanes. And now, virtually everything has been wiped out, and we will have to really start all over again. We’re literally starting from scratch.

Ultimately, the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort — it will end up being one of the biggest ever — will be funded and organized, and what we will do with the tremendous amount of existing debt already on the island.

We will not rest, however, until the people of Puerto Rico are safe. These are great people. We want them to be safe, and sound, and secure, and we will be there every day until that happens.

October 3, 2017: Carolina, Puerto Rico

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. It was a great trip and a beautiful place. I’ve been to Puerto Rico many times as, I think, most of you have known. And I’ve always loved it. And your weather is second to none, but every once in a while you get hit. And you really got hit — there’s no question about it….

I also want to thank your congresswoman, who actually represents the largest number of people of any congressperson in the United States. I know that. It’s 3.5 million people, Jenniffer, right? So Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón, who I’ve watched the other day and she was saying such nice things about all of the people that have worked so hard….

But I consider it a great honor, maybe because I know so many people from Puerto Rico that are such great people — I come from New York. But we’ve gone all out and I consider that, again, a great honor.

October 3, 2017: Air Force One

THE PRESIDENT: That was a terrific visit. That visit was terrific. Really great. Thank you very much for your nice words. Thank you. Appreciate it, very much. That was really nice. That was a great, great visit. Really loved it.

Q Were you able to make any guarantees to any of the officials there about a supplemental or —

THE PRESIDENT: We didn’t discuss that. No, we didn’t discuss that.

Q Mr. President, we heard a lot of praise for the efforts that you’ve done, the rest of the federal government has done, FEMA has done over the course of the day. We weren’t in every meeting, obviously. Did you hear any constructive criticism today?

THE PRESIDENT: None. They were so thankful for what we’ve done. And the congresswoman will tell you that they are so thankful for what we’ve done. Even the bringing of the big — you know, it’s the largest hospital boat in the world, and that arrived a little while ago.

Here’s a man right there, that’s been — known him a long time, right, Geraldo?

But it’s been — I think it’s been a great day. No, we only heard thank you’s from the people of Puerto Rico. They’re great people. And it was really something that I enjoyed very much today, being with them.

Q Mr. President, did you mean, earlier this morning, when you were talking to folks before you left, you said, on a local level, they have to give us more help. What did you mean by that?

THE PRESIDENT: On a local level, we need the truck drivers. We need the police. We need more help on a local level, that’s true. We have tremendous amounts of supplies there. We need them distributed locally, and the best one to do that are local people.

We need local help, and they’re helping. They’re really gearing up. They’re helping. Don’t forget, a lot of them lost their homes. And when you lose a home, it’s not easy to say, hey, I’m going to go and start delivering water — or even be a policeman. So, on a local level, we need help but they really have responded very well.

Q What does it, do you think, mean to the people of Puerto Rico, just you’re being on the island today after such devastation struck them over the course of the past two weeks?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it means a lot to the people of Puerto Rico that I was there. They’ve really responded very nicely, and I think it meant a lot to the people of Puerto Rico.
I mean, I think you folks have seen it. And I guess it’s one of the few times anybody has done this. I didn’t know that at the time, but I guess, from what I’m hearing, it’s the first time that a sitting President has done something like this. Is that a correct statement, congresswoman?


THE PRESIDENT: You were one of the people that told me.

REPRESENTATIVE GONZALEZ-COLON: Your First Lady and your Cabinet — we used to have one person coming to the island — two, three weeks later. But you know, you’re here with your whole staff coming back and forth. That never happened before.

THE PRESIDENT: And I know the people of Puerto Rico. And I know Puerto Rican people that live in New York and they’re friends of mine. And I will tell you, it’s an honor for me to have done it.

Now go back to Linda. She’s far more exciting.

October 6, 2017: The White House

THE PRESIDENT: And we also love Puerto Rico. (Applause.) And we’re marshaling every federal resource at our disposal.

Earlier this week, I traveled to Puerto Rico to oversee federal response to the two devastating hurricanes. Remember, it was two. It was one, and then it was another. And that second one was brutal. And they struck that great and beautiful island. And we now have more than 15,000 federal personnel on the island — 15,000. We will not rest until that job is done.

Puerto Rico has a long road of recovery ahead — very long road. But we know that its people are proud and they are resilient, and they will come back strong. (Applause.) And I’ve spent a lot of time with Governor Rosselló — who is a terrific man, a terrific person — on Tuesday. And we will be there all the time to help Puerto Rico recover, restore, rebuild. We’re working together very closely with your great governor and your congresswoman, who is terrific — Jessica [Jenniffer]. Terrific. (Applause.)

We stand with them and with all of those who have suffered through natural disasters over these past several weeks, including those in Texas and Florida. And Louisiana got hit, and got hit very hard. And the state of Alabama was incredible. They helped so many people coming up from Florida. And Georgia, likewise — so many incredible people. And also, we have to remember this: the Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands. Governor Mapp, who’s become like a friend of mine — I spoke to him so much on the phone. The job he’s done — they were hit so hard. And not much was left. But they’re rebuilding, and the spirit is incredible. U.S. Virgin Islands.

Apparently, the whole American citizens thing is coming from others in Trump administration, but not from Trump himself. Here are two examples:

Statement from First Lady Melania Trump on Today’s Visit to Puerto Rico

The devastation caused by Hurricane Maria will continue to affect our fellow citizens of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in many different ways, and the full recovery process will likely taking many months and even years. However, the resilience and determination of the people I met today will outlast any damage that was left behind. As I listened to the first responders who have helped so many people, and to the local residents who lost so much, I was heartened by the stories of neighbors helping neighbors, and a community coming together in tragedy. Just as with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, this Administration will continue to offer support and resources in the wake of this natural disaster. To the first responders and local officials who have worked tirelessly to provide aide, on behalf of a grateful Nation I say thank you. To our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, I continue to offer you daily thoughts and prayers. May God bless the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and offer comfort in this time of loss.

October 6, 2017: Vice President Pence in San Juan, Puerto Rico

To my fellow Americans in the room, I bring you greetings from a man who was here just two days ago, the 45th President of the United States of America who sent me to say, we are with you today. We will be with you tomorrow. We will be with you every day until Puerto Rico rebuilds and recovers bigger and better than ever before — President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

And let me express a word of appreciation on behalf of President Trump for your governor. Governor Rossello and his wonderful wife, Beatrice, who is only eight months pregnant. I told your governor in one of our recent video conferences that Puerto Rico is impressing America and impressing the world. And Governor Rossello, you and your family’s commitment, your determination, your vision for Puerto Rico is inspiring our country. And I commend you for that, and I thank you. (Applause.)

And let me assure you that Puerto Rico has a tenacious advocate in Washington, D.C. She is known as your resident commissioner, but we just call her Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez. She is amazing. (Applause.)

And thank you, all. Thank you for such a warm welcome today. I must tell you that the hearts of the American people have been breaking for people across these islands. Karen and I were in the U.S. Virgin Islands earlier today. And the President directed me to be with you this week to make sure that people all across Puerto Rico not just in this great city, but in places like Utuado (ph,) Arracebo (ph,) Coma Rio (ph) — all the cities and towns and promises across this land know, as President Trump said, we will get through this, and we will get through this together for everyone on Puerto Rico. (Applause.)

And on the President’s behalf, I say to you we will be here for the long haul. We will be here until all the people can say with one voice: Puerto Rico se levanta. (Applause.)

Puerto Rico is rising. It’s rising on the resilience of the good people of Puerto Rico. It’s rising on the commitment of the American people whose hands and feet are in the form of our armed forces, in the form of FEMA, and the more than 15,000 federal personnel that are on the ground. And it rises in the form of faith that your governor so eloquently described.

And it’s to that faith we repair and we say in this place of worship that first and foremost, we remember those who’ve lost loved ones in these storms. The Bible tells us that the Lord is close to the broken-hearted. And let that be our prayer for all of those who have lost loved ones and may yet learn of loss as time goes forward.

Our commitment to Puerto Rico, I trust is demonstrated by the President and the First Lady’s presence — Karen and my presence here today. But as Jennifer kindly mentioned, I’m honored to be joined by the Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao. (Applause.) The Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services Don Wright. (Applause.) And the still new Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Jerome Adams, who has been in the islands for a week. (Applause.)

The President often says that in America and among the American people when one hurts, we all hurt; when one struggles, we all struggle. When one part of America cries out for help, we come together. And I believe in my heart that when the history of this time and this crisis is recorded in Puerto Rico, this will be a chapter when Americans stood by Americans and delivered on that promise. (Applause.)

With the strong leadership of Governor Rossello, federal officials were here before the storm even arrived, during the storm. I spoke to our FEMA leadership in the region who explained to me that this was a rare occasion where FEMA personnel were sheltering in place during a Category 5 hurricane, not once but twice. We’re proud of the efforts of FEMA. We’re proud of our team on the ground. Nearly a month and a half, one hurricane after another, federal emergency management personnel across this region and across the country have made all of America proud. (Applause.)

And we’re proud of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, including the National Guard of Puerto Rico. (Applause.)

It is remarkable to think of those patriots in the Puerto Rican National Guard, many of whom suffered loss in their homes, in their communities, but still answered the governor’s call, stepped forward to come alongside neighbors and friends in their hour of need.

With the strong leadership of Governor Rossello, strong support of local officials at every level, and the support of those nearly 15,000 federal officials and armed forces, I’m pleased to report to you at this present we’ve delivered 7 million meals, 6 million liters of water. We are — we have a presence here of 14 Navy and Coast Guard ships, the USNS Comfort has arrived. And we have been making steady progress — steady progress opening roads and opening commerce and restoring basic infrastructure. But we have a long way to go.

President Trump and I know this; our entire team does. The people of Puerto Rico can be assured that we will be with you every step of the way. We will see this challenge through. While we’ve made progress, commercial flights resumed; 75 percent of gas stations up and running; electricity to around 50 hospitals and dialysis centers. We know there is so much work to do. But I stand before you today with confidence that this work will be done because I have faith. I have faith in the leadership of Puerto Rico, of Governor Rossello, of all of your leadership at the local level and those that represent you in Washington, D.C., and those that serve you in uniform at every level.

I have faith in all the American citizens across Puerto Rico who have come alongside neighbors and friends in acts of kindness and charity. I have faith in President Trump’s leadership, his determination to stand by Puerto Rico in this challenging time. And I have faith that all of the American people stand today committed to see Puerto Rico through because we are all unidos por Puerto Rico. (Applause.)

And lastly, as Father Pena mentioned, I have that other kind of faith. I have faith that He in who the people of Puerto Rico have placed their trust for generations past is still with us today as our refuge and our strength, and that as Puerto Rico and its people do as you’ve done throughout your history, as you continue to build on that rock, that the rains may come down, the winds will blow and beat against the house, but the house will not fall because it’s built upon the rock. (Applause.)

And on that rock of faith, we know Puerto Rico will rise again. The U.S. Virgin Islands will rise again, as President Trump loves to say, bigger and better than ever before.

And so let me say with confidence, with your continued generosity to your neighbors, with the strong leadership of Puerto Rico at every level, with the dedication of American officials from our armed forces to FEMA, the generosity of Americans who at this very hour are finding ways to help and contribute to the renewal of this region, and with the leadership of President Donald Trump in the White House, and with God’s help, I know in my heart of hearts Cochi (ph) will sing loudly once again. (Applause.) And the best days for Puerto Rico and for all of America are yet to come.

Thank you. God bless all of you. God bless Puerto Rico and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)