Trump said Puerto Rico is ‘dirty’ and its residents ‘poor,’ says former DHS official


AUGUST 19, 2020

Some homes in the Cano Martin Pena communities in San Juan, Puerto Rico still lack permanent roofs, as seen on Aug. 24, 2018, a year after Hurricane Maria. – Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS

MIAMI — A former top Trump administration official at the Department of Homeland Security confirmed Wednesday reports from last year that President Donald Trump sought to swap Puerto Rico for Greenland after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017.

Miles Taylor, who served as DHS chief of staff to then-Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, told MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson Wednesday morning that the president justified the idea by telling staff that Puerto Ricans are “poor,” and the island is “dirty.”

“One time before we went down (in 2018), he told us not only did he want to purchase Greenland, he actually said he wanted to see if we could sell Puerto Rico,” said Taylor. “Could we swap Puerto Rico for Greenland because in his words, Puerto Rico was dirty and the people were poor.”

The account from Taylor, who is a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, was an example he offered when Jackson asked for an anecdote of something disturbing he witnessed in his two-year tenure, from 2017 to 2019.

“We could go on for days,” he said, adding that he did not take Trump’s comments on Puerto Rico before an official visit to the island to be a joke.

Taylor also said Trump “expressed deep animus towards the Puerto Rican people behind the scenes,” as the residents from the U.S. territory were starting to recover from the Category 4 hurricane.

“These are people who were recovering from the worst disaster of their lifetimes. He is their president. He should be standing by them, not trying to sell them to a foreign country,” Taylor added.

The anecdote of Trump floating the idea of trading Puerto Rico for the Danish territory was first reported back in August 2019 by The New York Times, then attributed to a former official who overheard Trump. The official was not named in the report.

In a statement, a Trump administration official said “any suggestion that the president has not taken care of the people of Puerto Rico is absolutely false.”

Judd Deere, White House deputy press secretary, added that Taylor “is another creature of the D.C. swamp” and “clearly just wants to cash in.”

“President Trump has an unprecedented number of accomplishments in spite of government bureaucrats who are only out for themselves, not the forgotten men and women of this country,” Deere said in a statement.

Still, Taylor also defended his role in DHS under former Secretary Nielsen, who is largely credited with implementing Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies, including family separations, to deter illegal immigration.

“I was part of a lot of mistakes in this administration … A lot of people went into this Trump administration thinking that the president’s misguided impulses could be ameliorated. We were proven decisively wrong,” he said.

Biden’s campaign released a statement on Taylor’s interview, saying his retelling of Trump’s “clear animosity towards the island … can be summarized by disrespect for human life.”

“His response to Hurricane Maria and continued reporting about his intent to sell the island in the aftermath confirm what we already knew: Donald Trump does not care about the people of Puerto Rico,” said Biden senior adviser Cristóbal Alex.

While Biden has previously said he would “engage Puerto Ricans … in a process of self-determination” to decide on Puerto Rico’s political status under the U.S., the former vice president has not yet released a full plan for the island.

Courtesy/Source: Miami Herald