President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited Puerto Rico on Tuesday, talking with families hit by the hurricane and delivering aid to victims of the storm.
During his visit, Trump acknowledged that the crisis would cost a lot of money but pledged to help the island rebuild after the devastation Hurricane Maria caused.
“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you threw our budget a little out of whack, but that’s fine,” Trump said. “We saved a lot of lives.”
The president received a hurricane briefing in Puerto Rico, meeting with local officials, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
“He’s not even from my party, and he started right at the beginning appreciating what we did, and he was tremendously supportive,” Trump said, thanking the governor for his response to the hurricane.
“Right from the beginning, this governor did not play politics. … He was saying it like it was and giving us the highest grades,” he added.
The president said that he did not want credit, but he wanted government officials and employees to be recognized for all their efforts on the island.
He also thanked Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez for her support and her “generous” response and shook hands with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, despite her criticism of him.
Trump praised FEMA director Brock Long, noting that he had already directed hurricane responses in Lousiana, Texas, and Florida before the disaster in Puerto Rico.
“This has been the toughest one,” he said.
Long acknowledged that it was “day 43” of the extended hurricane response effort, receiving applause from officials recognizing his efforts on their behalf.
“You can be very proud,” Trump said, referring to the thousands of government workers who helped rescue Puerto Rico citizens after the storms. “Only 16 instead of thousands in Katrina.”
Rosselló praised Trump for his repeated interest in helping the island of Puerto Rico in the wake of the storm.
“I want to personally thank you, Mr. President, because, over the course of the past week, you have called essentially every day to make sure that we have what we need,” he said, vowing to work with the federal government to restore the island.
The president also walked through a community in Puerto Rico, visiting with citizens suffering from the storm damage.
“We’re going to help you out,” he told a family, as he stopped to talk.
One resident climbed a fence to get a good look at Trump with his son. He told a reporter in Spanish that he was happy to be physically close to a president for the first time.
The president and the first lady spoke with families who shared stories of their suffering under the hurricane.
Trump traveled to Calvary Chapel, where a large group of citizens were there cheering when he arrived.
Some of them were holding signs that read “Proud Americans,” “Let’s Make Puerto Rico Great Again” and “God bless You Mr. President.”
He passed out aid packages and got laughter and cheers when he started launching rolls of paper towels into the crowd.
The president repeatedly praised the government officials who were working to help take care of the island.
“What I see is an incredible job done by FEMA, the Air Force, and the Navy,” he said.
Later in the day, Trump took a helicopter to the USS Kearsarge to visit the military personnel who were launching aid missions to Puerto Rico by helicopter.
“You’re amazing people, the world gets it, I do,” he told the crew before he left the ship.