A CNN appearance by homeland security adviser Tom Bossert went immediately off the rails after the White House official blamed Puerto Rico’s debt for the administration’s slow response to hurricane devastation.
“New Day” host Chris Cuomo asked whether the government was prepared to do whatever was necessary to aid Americans after the natural disaster, and Bossert offered more excuses than action.
“We always have big discussions after disasters, as to the cost,” Bossert said. “But what you need to know is that Puerto Rico started this one $72 billion in debt, so the president is 1,000 percent right. We’re going to have to figure out how to handle this as we move forward.”
Cuomo interrupted Bossert, who irritably complained, and asked what was the connection between Puerto Rico’s debt and the administration’s responsibility to aid the territory as it had Texas and Florida.
“The idea is, Chris, with them being in debt, they don’t have enough ready liquid cash to pay their normal share like Florida and Texas had ready (to) share,” Bossert said. “So what we’re ready to do, and the president has already done it, is give a 180-day cost-share adjustment. The federal government is paying 100 percent of the tab to make sure lives are saved. We’ll worry about the big decisions later — that’s the president’s point.”
Bossert got snippy when Cuomo described the desperation seen just outside San Juan, which the White House official suggested was unfair to him and the president.
“The slightly argumentative tone (you’re) taking — earlier today, I guess about 6:20 (a.m.), 20 minutes ago, you said to our colonel in the field that no one doubts our efforts or commitment, his efforts or commitment,” Bossert said. “That colonel is there because of President Trump, and now what I hear from you is you’re doubting his efforts and commitment. So which is it?”
Cuomo said the Army Corps of Engineers was working hard to repair Puerto Rico, but he questioned whether relief had been a White House priority from the start.
“We know the president was slow to come to this with his public statements — that’s a matter of fact,” Cuomo said, as the White House adviser shook his head. “That’s a matter of public record, you can see it from his Twitter.”
Bossert whined that CNN unfairly criticized the White House on Thursday, which he described in detail, and insisted Trump had put military troops in place before Hurricane Maria hit the island.
“I think the criticism yesterday from you and your network wasn’t well placed,” he said. “I think what President Trump did was put forces in place before the storm, not slow to respond after it. We had a four-star admiral in yesterday, your reporters were focusing on a three-star general.”
Cuomo smacked Bossert for making the relief effort all about Trump.
“Gen. Honoré ain’t a reporter, he’s a guy who knows the field, knows logistics, knows what it takes,” Cuomo said. “He’s been critical — what do you say to him?”
Bossert said the retired lieutenant general was wrong about Trump’s response, saying the president put a four-star admiral in place while Honoré was complaining that no three-star general had been dispatched.
“There’s no question that you’ve made changes to improve the logistical command on the ground in Puerto Rico,” Cuomo said. “That’s just true — we’re seeing it every day. Why did you have to change it? Because it was inadequate. You can see that as criticism, I see it as an adjustment of reality.”
Bossert complained that he sees Cuomo’s assessment as “wrong,” and described the geography of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico to explain the response to each disaster.
“Every viewer understands that,” Bossert said. “We didn’t adjust because we were wrong or poor in our planning, we adjusted because the conditions warranted.”