The Trump team isn’t getting out of the mess they’ve made without a fight. This week, the House Oversight Committee began a probe of their handling of the hurricanes that rocked Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands back in 2017, leaving thousands dead in the immediate aftermath and from the longer lasting effects of the storms. In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Trump administration has repeatedly failed to respond adequately to area needs, providing at times grossly inadequate support for struggling survivors at times. Concerned observers want to know why.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings told officials at the White House, Department of Health and Human Services, and Federal Emergency Management Agency:
‘The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether any of our nation’s disaster response laws need to be amended and improved — including with respect to long-term planning, advance contracting, real-time communications, intelligence-sharing, and leadership structure.’
The investigation comes after panel Democrats already sought the wide-ranging relevant documents they’re after but were blocked while in the minority by the GOP, even though there’s a clear precedent for their oversight push in the form of the Republican-led panel obtaining almost 20,000 similar relevant documents from the Bush administration after Hurricane Katrina. Now, as he suggests, Cummings wants documents detailing both any and all preparations the administration took ahead of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and material covering their response to the storms once it became clear that the area was in line for a massive natural disaster.
The now-chairman first sought this material back in late 2017, but the White House did not hand over a single document, which fits into a broader, still-going pattern of stonewalling. Now, Cummings is joined by every Democrat on the Oversight Committee in making his demand — and he says the committee “may be forced to consider alternative means to obtain compliance” if the Trump team continues to ignore their requests.
Publicly, Trump has continued to fiercely defend his administration’s response to the storms in question. Previously, he’s gone so far down that rabbit trail that he declared Puerto Rican authorities declaring their death toll at almost 3,000 as them peddling “fake news.”
Most recently, on Monday, he ranted on Twitter about the supposed large amount of cash the island has already gotten, although they have not actually received the majority of the figure Trump cites and even if they had, why is that supposed to be a magic fix for the lingering issues?
Trump had lied:
‘Puerto Rico has been given more money by Congress for Hurricane Disaster Relief, 91 Billion Dollars, than any State in the history of the U.S… Puerto Rico should be very happy’
In reality, the island has only seen $5.72 billion or so disbursed from FEMA, with amounts either already disbursed or allocated from other agencies that even all combined doesn’t add up to one-fourth of the number Trump put out. That’s the number the island may be on track for in the future “if the commonwealth gets treatment on par with U.S. states,” The Washington Post explains — which they add is definitely a big “if.”
Why should providing for struggling people of the United States be such a politicized issue anyway? Can Trump really not get over himself for long enough to get out of the way?
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