“Sixteen people versus in the thousands,” Trump said. “You can be very proud of all your people.”
Trump’s visit comes just days after getting into a high-profile spat with the San Juan mayor.
Cruz had begged the administration to “make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.”
Trump responded angrily on Twitter, deriding the “poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”
Trump downplayed the spat with the mayor when asked about it by reporters as he departed the White House on Tuesday.
“Well, I think she’s come back a long way,” Trump said. “I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that. And in Texas and in Florida, we get an A+. And I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico, and it’s actually a much tougher situation.”
But Trump added: “On a local level, they have to give us more help.”
After his hangar briefing, Trump walked from home to home through a neighborhood in Guaynabo, where piles of debris and downed trees were visible. Accompanied by Puerto Rico’s governor, Trump greeted residents and took photos with them outside their homes.
Maria was the most powerful hurricane to hit the island in nearly a century and unleashed floods and mudslides that knocked out the island’s entire electrical grid and telecommunications, along with many roads.
Nearly two weeks after the Puerto Rico storm, 95 percent of electricity customers remain without power, including some hospitals. And much of the countryside is still struggling to access such basic necessities as food, fresh water and cash.
Trump and other administration officials have worked in recent days to reassure Americans that recovery efforts are going well and combat a perception that the president failed to fully grasp the magnitude of the storm’s destruction in its immediate aftermath.
While early response efforts were hampered by logistical challenges, officials say that conditions, especially in the capital, have improved.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there are now more than 10,000 federal officials on the ground on the island, and 45 percent of customers now have access to drinking water.
A number of top officials joined the president for Tuesday’s trip, including Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, Small Business administrator Linda McMahon and Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert.
FEMA administrator Brock Long is also in Puerto Rico.
Link: Trump meets San Juan mayor after feud, surveys hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico