Manigault Newman, a former senior White House adviser, wouldn’t specify what offensive terms the Trump administration allegedly used when referring to Puerto Ricans, even when pressed to do so during one of her many interviews to promote her book.
CNN has not independently verified her claims, and the White House did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Here are three claims the book made and my analysis of their veracity.
Claim 1: Trump had a vendetta against the mayor of San Juan
In the book, Manigault Newman says that it would not surprise her if Trump was taking out his ire with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz on the people of Puerto Rico. “I would not put it past Trump to punish the people of Puerto Rico to teach that woman of color a lesson,” she wrote.
Indeed, the President did engage in a very public feud with one of the harshest and most vocal critics of his handling of the crisis. Yulin Cruz was a frequent presence on television and didn’t hold back her low opinion of Trump and his administration’s response.
“We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy,” Yulin Cruz said at one news conference.
Trump struck back swiftly and fiercely.
“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” the President tweeted on September 30 from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he was spending the weekend. “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
Yulin Cruz told MSNBC she wasn’t saying anything nasty about the President; she just wanted help.
“Rather than being a commander-in-chief, he’s like a hater-in-chief. He continues to tweet his hate all over the place,” she later told CNN’s Don Lemon.
Claim 2: The administration’s response was too slow
Manigault Newman, who was fired by Kelly last December from her role as the White House Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, also puts much of the blame for what she calls the administration’s “lethargic” response directly on the chief of staff. She says Kelly was slow to approve aid and that he blamed the island for its troubles following Maria.
In those crucial first days after the storm, I did not see any federal agencies leading a sustained rescue and recovery effort. Many Puerto Ricans were doing much of that work themselves, and as people grew more desperate and water became more scarce, I remember many reporters on the ground asking, “Where is the National Guard? Where is FEMA?”
I saw local officials finally distributing FEMA-provided food for the first time more than a week after I arrived on the island, and not only did the meals mainly consist of sweets and ready-to-eat snack items, also described in Manigault Newman’s book, there were often not enough to go around.
In the immediate aftermath of Maria, the President gave himself and his administration a 10 — on a scale of 1 to 10 — for the hurricane response to Puerto Rico. But in a report issued last month, FEMA acknowledged that mistakes were made. The agency concluded it had vastly underestimated the island’s “insufficiently maintained infrastructure.”
Claim 3: Trump and Kelly lacked empathy
She said she fought “arm in arm” with former Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert to try to advocate for Puerto Rico, but that Kelly shut down those efforts.
The fact is, it took Trump two weeks to visit Puerto Rico, even as the images dominating the news showed shortages of electricity, water, food and gas. In contrast, the President was in Texas and Florida within days after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit.
Once on the island, Trump indeed complained about the territory’s fiscal problems, at one point saying, “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget out of whack.”
He then proceeded to toss rolls of paper towels to victims gathered at a church.
“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous — hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this. What is your death count as of this moment? Seventeen? Sixteen people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people and all of our people working together,” he said then.
Maria Santana, a correspondent for CNN en Español, was among CNN’s team of reporters who covered the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.