His comments run counter to how many locals and experts have assessed the federal government’s response.
“I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” Trump said, noting that the island location is “tough” during a hurricane due to the inability to transport vital equipment and supplies by truck. “It was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”
Trump on Tuesday, alongside Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long, said the island’s electric grid had been already “in bad shape.”
The President praised the job FEMA and law enforcement did in Puerto Rico as “an incredible, unsung success.”
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been a vocal critic of the administration’s handling of the storm, cast blame on the federal government for failing to provide adequate assistance in the aftermath of the storm.
“It’s 2,975 people, and they’re still calling it an estimate — 2,975 people that will never see the light of day, and many of them died because of what was done by the administration and that was silently approved by most of the political class in Puerto Rico,” Cruz told CNN earlier this month.
“The administration killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect,” she added. “The Trump administration led us to believe they were helping when they weren’t up to par, and they didn’t allow other countries to help us. … Shame on President Trump.”
While the President has frequently praised the government response in the year since the hurricane, others in the administration have acknowledged learned lessons.
And Long said FEMA had made changes to some of its priorities and procedures.
“We made a lot of changes in real time in addition to the high-level efforts that we learned through our after-action process. Bottom line is, we are concentrating on what we call critical lifelines — health, safety, security. You know, we’ve got food, shelter, health and medical, power and fuel, communications, transportation, hazardous waste,” he told reporters on a conference call on Hurricane Lane preparations last month.
Long continued: “We are hyper-focused on those seven critical lifelines because we realized last year that if any one of those lifelines goes down, then life safety is in jeopardy. And so we’re reorganizing the firepower of the federal government underneath these critical lifelines, we’re pushing forward.”
Trump said Tuesday that Tropical Storm Isaac, which had been downgraded from hurricane status overnight, currently poses a threat to Puerto Rico.
“We do not want to see Hurricane Isaac hit Puerto Rico,” he said.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Jeremy Diamond, Leyla Santiago, Catherine E. Shoichet and Jason Kravarik contributed to this report.