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Trump tweets FEMA can't keep aid in Puerto Rico forever

Puerto Rico recovery
Puerto Rican hospital without power struggles to treat patients as Trump tweets FEMA can't stay "forever" 02:18

President Trump continued his defense of federal response to the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, but suggested it has its limits, tweeting Thursday morning that the federal government "cannot keep FEMA, the military and first responders" in Puerto Rico forever.

Mr. Trump, citing Sharyl Attkisson, host of Full Measure News, which airs on stations operated by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, said that the island's electric and infrastructure "was [a] disaster before hurricanes." He added that it's up to "Congress to decide how much to spend" on recovery.

The White House on Tuesday asked Congress for $5 billion to ease the fiscal crisis plaguing the government of Puerto Rico in the wake of the hurricane.

According to a senior administration official, the White House asked Congress for a $4.9 billion disaster assistance loan to help Puerto Rico make government payroll and pension payments, CBS News' Major Garrett reported.

The loan is not, however, about servicing the commonwealth's debt. Puerto Rico's economy is under such stress it is having trouble making basic payments. This loan is designed to ease those problems.

Garrett reports that the request is being added to the disaster relief request the White House sent Congress last week and that is making its way through the House this week.

The White House also requested $150 million to help Puerto Rico with the 10 percent match required for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief.

Puerto Rico's financial distress has been an area of contention for the president before, who said in an interview with Fox News' Geraldo Rivera that the island owes "a lot of money" to Wall Street and the U.S. must "wipe out" its debt.

In an interview that aired on "Hannity" after Mr. Trump's day-long visit to the island, the president doubled down on his criticism of Puerto Rico's debt issues, a comment he reiterated to local officials during a hurricane briefing, when he remarked that the island's hardship is throwing the federal budget "a little out of whack."

"They had 72 billion in debt before the hurricanes hit and they had a power plant that didn't work before the hurricane so we're going to help them, we're going do something and were going to get it back on its feet," the president told Rivera.

"We have to look at their whole debt structure. You know, they owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street. And we're going to have to wipe that out," he said. Mr. Trump added, "you're going to say goodbye to that, I don't know if it's Goldman Sachs but whoever it is, you can wave goodbye" to Puerto Rico's debt.

But just one day after Mr. Trump's remarks to Rivera, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney walked back an aspect of the president's comments, telling CBS News' Margaret Brennan that "we're absolutely not" bailing out Puerto Rico.

Mulvaney, who spoke to Mr. Trump after his interview, said that the president meant the island would have significant costs related to rebuilding efforts and would receive robust assurances from the federal government.

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