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Puerto Rico governor rejects calls to resign over profane and derogatory group chat

PR governor won't resign over leaked chat
Puerto Rico governor rejects calls to resign over profane and derogatory group chat 04:35

There are new calls this morning for the governor of Puerto Rico to resign, after leaked conversations reveal his part in a profane and derogatory group chat.

The island has struggled to recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017, and Governor Ricardo Rosselló's administration has been plagued by scandals involving funding. Two of Rosselló's  top officials stepped down this weekend, after the leaked group chat showed Rossello and his allies discussed confidential government information and slandered other officials, politicians and journalists.

On Sunday protesters gathered outside the residence of Governor Ricardo Rosselló demanding he step down. CBS News

"CBS This Morning" lead national correspondent David Begnaud, who is among the people targeted in those conversations, said they weren't happy with one of his reports about crime on the island, and were discussing ways to paint his reporting as harmful to tourism.

The governor was the administrator of this chat room, where they discussed setting up a troll network to go after anyone seen as critical of this administration.

The leaked chat room conversations among Rosselló and 11 others are laced with profane, homophobic and sexist comments, and in one case even a death threat against the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz. The governor's chief financial officer, Christian Sobrino, wrote, "I'm dying to shoot her up." Rosselló replied, "You'd be doing me a big favor."

Overnight, fireworks in front of the governor's mansion were a show of protest. Demonstrators are demanding the 40-year-old governor resign.

Last week, the FBI arrested two of Rossello's former top officials on fraud charges involving more than $15 million of federal funding. Rosselló's administration has been under scrutiny for its spending of government funds after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017.

"For Puerto Ricans, this has been basically our Watergate," said Caribbean scholar Yarimar Bonilla, who writes about post-Hurricane Maria recovery. "The government is distracted thinking about its image, worrying about how they're being represented in the press instead of attending to matters of the recovery."

Some of the leaders of Rosselló's  own party are standing by him this morning, and as of right now he says he has no plans to leave

On Sunday morning, as his political support was collapsing around him, Rosselló went to church seeking forgiveness.

"I think they did a lot of illegal things during these conversations," said Carla Minet, who leads Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism, which published 889 pages of the conversations. "They were part of a conspiracy to persecute people because of political beliefs. I think definitely they used public funds to do political work. That is unbelievable."

Arnaldo Claudio was one of the people targeted in the group chat. He was appointed by the Justice Department five years ago to bring reform to Puerto Rico's police department.

"That is really scary in a democracy," Claudio said. "This is not right at all, and it needs to be condemned. They cannot have people like this trying to coerce people or trying to use their level in government to harm people. It's wrong."

Claudio has gone to the FBI asking them to look into the group chat.

The FBI would not confirm to CBS News whether or not they have launched an investigation.

Rosselló says he was working 18-hour days and was venting when he got involved with those group chats. He plans to run for a second term in November of 2020. And Begnaud said, while there was talk this weekend among party members to seek Rosselló's impeachment, they are standing by him, for now. 

And there may be more to come: Begnaud said there is news that more chat room messages may be leaked soon.

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