The White House Says Trump Is Handling Puerto Rico — Even Though He's Not Tweeting About It

Trump in the Oval Office on Monday.

Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

President Donald Trump may have spent his weekend tweeting repeatedly against NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality — sparking condemnation from top athletes and coaches, and inflaming yet another culture war across the US — but the White House insists he's still focused on the disaster in Puerto Rico.

“It really doesn't take out that long to type out 140 characters,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday, “and this president is very capable of doing more than one thing at a time and more than one thing in a day.”

Since Saturday morning, the president has tweeted or retweeted some 17 posts about the sports world or athletes kneeling. He hasn't tweeted about the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico since Wednesday.

But Sanders said Trump was simply using his Twitter account to emphasize patriotism.

“He's not emphasizing sports,” she said. “He's emphasizing something that should be unifying; celebrating and promoting patriotism in our country is something that should bring everybody together.”

Pool / Getty Images

Sanders noted that FEMA administrator Brock Long and Homeland Security senior adviser Tom Bossert were in Puerto Rico assessing the damage on behalf of the administration.

“The response has been at an unprecedented level and we're supplying federal assistance as quickly as possible,” she added.

More than 10,000 federal staff are on the ground in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands “assisting with search & rescue, restoring power, & moving commodities,” according to FEMA.

@fema / Twitter / Via Twitter: @fema

Puerto Rico was left devastated by Hurricane Maria and at least 16 people were killed in the powerful storm. Much of the island remains without power, electricity, or communications services.

“This is a humanitarian disaster involving 3.4 million US citizens,” Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello‏ said in a statement on Monday pleading for federal assistance. “We will need the full support of the US government.”

“People cannot forget that we are US citizens — and proud of it,” he said.

Sanders said the president's priorities were not out of line by him spending his weekend tweeting repeatedly about sports and protest.

“I think that it's always appropriate for the president of the United States to defend our flag, to defend the national anthem, and to defend the men and women who fought and died to defend it,” she said.

“I certainly don't think that talking about the American flag is a distraction for the president of the United States,” she added.

@davidmackau / Twitter / Via Twitter: @davidmackau

Sanders also repeated the president's criticisms of athletes who stage nonviolent protests during the national anthem.

“I think, if the debate is really for them about police brutality, they should probably protest the officers on the field that are protecting them instead of the American flag,” she said.

Sanders later clarified she was not encouraging players to protest police.


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