- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2019

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló took an aggressive stance against the White House Thursday, saying his officials will not be pushed around as they fight for Hurricane Maria disaster relief.

“If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth. Just like that. It would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage,” the governor said in an interview with CNN.

President Trump and Mr. Rosselló reportedly had a good relationship immediately after the hurricane in September of 2017, with Mr. Trump tweeting a quote from the governor, “The Administration and the President, every time we’ve spoken, they’ve delivered……”

Over the last several months, however, the relationship has soured, with Puerto Rican officials reporting senior officials have aggressively denied their requests for meeting with the president, including White House trade adviser Peter Navarro reportedly telling officials, “Your governor is f——— things up.”

Mr. Rosselló said he wants to meet with Mr. Trump to provide him with accurate information about what his island territory needs despite his outspoken stance.

“My consideration is, I just want to have the opportunity to explain to him why the data and information he’s getting is wrong. I don’t think getting into a kicking and screaming match with the president does any good,” he said.

“What I am aiming to do is make sure that reason prevails, that empathy prevails, that equality prevails and that we can have a discussion,” he added.

During a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans Tuesday, Mr. Trump reportedly criticized the amount of disaster aid that Puerto Rico is receiving, pegging the number at $91 billion.

Mr. Rosselló disputed that: “Trump is receiving misleading information from his own staff.”

Mr. Rosselló was on Capitol Hill Thursday speaking with lawmakers about Puerto Rico’s statehood, which would allow the island more leverage to receive aide.

“Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he left the White House. “I think the people of Puerto Rico understand it.”

He said the mayor of San Juan, who has been critical of the president, “doesn’t know what she’s doing,” and that Mr. Rossello needs to spend the money wisely.

“I’ve given them more money than they’ve ever got,” he said.

⦁ Dave Boyer and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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