[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today urged U.S. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth to launch an immediate investigation into the Trump Administration’s handling of relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Earlier this week, President Trump tweeted a video purporting to show successful relief efforts in Puerto Rico, that was later exposed by the Washington Post to have been favorably edited to demonstrate a robust federal response.
“I am deeply concerned about the administration’s overall inadequate approach to this catastrophe,” wrote Blumenthal. “I write urging you to launch an immediate investigation into the administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The American people need to know whether the Trump administration is truly focused on helping the millions of Americans now suffering in Puerto Rico.”
Blumenthal’s full letter to Roth is available here and copied below.
October 13, 2017
Mr. John Roth
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane, Southwest
Washington, D.C. 20528
Dear Mr. Roth:
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump tweeted a video that purported to show federal relief efforts in Puerto Rico, efforts he has claimed the public and the media are willfully ignoring. That video appears to have been favorably edited to demonstrate a robust federal response, and as publications like the Washington Post have revealed, includes misleading footage. This portrayal of the recovery is completely at odds with what I am hearing from countless Connecticut residents with close friends and family throughout Puerto Rico, suffering amid the damage wrought by the hurricane. The administration’s efforts should be squarely and solely focused on helping the 3.4 million Americans on the island, all of whom are struggling for access to basic necessities
In my recent visit to Puerto Rico, I was deeply impressed by the dedicated and courageous rescue and relief work of the men and women on the ground working for FEMA, the military, and other agencies and relief organizations. I am deeply concerned, however, about the administration’s overall inadequate approach to this catastrophe. I write urging you to launch an immediate investigation into the administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The American people need to know whether the Trump administration is truly focused on helping the millions of Americans now suffering in Puerto Rico – addressing allegations of self-promotion and subterfuge.
Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency – the agency leading the federal response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria – removed critical data from its website that showed the status of residents’ access to electricity and water – perhaps two of the key metrics revealing progress on the island. After a swift and well-justified public outcry, FEMA returned the data to its website. By limiting access to this information, the agency seemingly was attempting to remove embarrassing and unflattering statistics that reveal shamefully slow improvements in Puerto Rico. The public deserves an explanation. FEMA is within the Department of Homeland Security. Accordingly your office is best positioned to investigate federal recovery efforts and ensure accountability. I urge you to closely evaluate the following:
I strongly encourage you to expand your investigation and review any and all other elements of FEMA’s response as necessary.
I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.