Forty-six days before the presidential election, and with a very tight race in battleground state Florida (I’ll get to that), the Trump administration has suddenly announced a new $13 billion aid package to help rebuild Puerto Rico which was decimated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The Hill reports the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will award $9.6 billion in grants to help rebuild the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority addressing repairs to electrical substations, power generation systems and transmission lines. Additionally, $2 billion will be targeted to rebuilding the U.S. territory’s school buildings and educational facilities.
During a press briefing today, Donald Trump told reporters, “I have to say in a very nice way, very respectful way, I’m the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico. Nobody even close.”
Hold the phone…
You may recall this is the same man who, in November 2018, told congressional leaders he didn’t want anymore relief funds going to Puerto Rico.
In June 2019, when Congress was finally able to pass additional relief funds for Puerto Rico, Trump attempted to take credit for the move even though he’d worked to block such funding.
At the press event today, Trump tried to say “Democrats don’t want to see” aid to Puerto Rico passed, but the Democratic-led House passed billions in aid to Puerto Rico in February amid Republican objections.
Now, I’d sooner bite my tongue than be cynical, but it’s a fact that thousands of Puerto Ricans migrated to Florida after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. And in a race where every vote counts, the timing of this new funding certainly is convenient.
Real Clear Politics average of polls in Florida shows Democrat Joe Biden just 1.6 points ahead of the Donald. If Trump loses the Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes, his path to winning becomes VERY tight.
After botching the response to Hurricane Maria and repeatedly neglecting and insulting the Americans there, Trump now claims, “I’m the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico.” pic.twitter.com/sAFKb1xdEp
Recall that Trump had wanted to trade Puerto Rico for Greenland — in part, according to former DHS official @MilesTaylorUSA, because the president believed Puerto Rico was “dirty” and the people who lived there were “poor” https://t.co/pgAXx6Jdck
• InstaHunks: Woofy Joe Blizzard (above) is back in the gym, offering up selfies. Don’t mind if I do… 🙂 Follow him on Instagram here.
• Mr. Man: The world’s leading online library of male nude scenes in film has revealed its ‘Hottest Gay TV Scenes of All Time.’ The diverse list features several men of color like Billy Porter and Omid Abtahi, an actor with cerebral palsy, and some of Hollywood’s top stars who have dared to portray gay sex on the small screen.
• Gay Star News: Puerto Rico’s governor has signed a new Civil Code that leaves out LGBT+ protections despite a rise in LGBT+ murders. The new Civil Code makes no mention of protection from hate speech or discrimination in employment, goods and services. Governor Wanda Vázquez has already received backlash for her response to the killing of at least 10 LGBTQ Puerto Ricans in 2019 and 2020.
• Poz: During a study researching a vaccine for HIV, scientists found that soon after taking the participants off antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for a period of close monitoring, the virus rapidly rebounded in their semen. The discovery raises concerns that men who participate in such trials while taking a break in their usual HIV meds are at risk of transmitting the virus through sex.
• Roll Call: After the recent dust-up between Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Donald Trump over protests in the DC area, House Democrats plan to bring up a vote on statehood for the District. Expect it to pass in the House, but Senate Republicans will never let it happen. DC voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, and statehood would give the Dems two more Senators plus a voting member of the House.
• Twitter: Social media star Sarah Cooper’s latest lip-dub of Donald Trump takes on ‘How to lobster.’ If you don’t follow her yet, you really should. Funny, funny stuff.
• Netflix: Who’s ready for the season of brotherly love? Grab your oars, a life vest, and an extremely absorbent box of tissues because Queer Eye Season 5 (above) is arriving in Philly, June 5th!
• NewNowNext: A new queer-centric concert series: Outloud: Raising Voices, a 10-episode benefit show featuring livestreamed performances from LGBTQ and allied artists, will kick off May 26 with performances by Kesha, Betty Who and more. Funds raised during the epic five-week affair will benefit local Pride organizers impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
• OUT: Under the veil of secrecy, legislators have crafted and rushed through a new civil code for the island of Puerto Rico. Having passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the legislation is awaiting the signature of Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced. But, advocates warn that amendments to the bill made without public debate and adequate time for analyzing could roll back LGBTQ+ rights.
• The Hill: Donald Trump went without a mask during a visit to a Pennsylvania medical equipment distribution center (again) even as other government officials in his party wore face coverings around the facility.
• Yahoo News: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is being sued for her revised federal guidelines on how sexual assault allegations should be handled on college and K-12 campuses. Plaintiffs say (and they are right) the changes would “inflict significant harm” on victims and “dramatically undermine” their civil rights.
• Fox News: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted he lied when he said the Obama administration did not leave behind any “game plan” for responding to a pandemic.
Mitch McConnell is backed into a corner and forced to admit he lied about the Obama administration not leaving a pandemic plan, on Fox.pic.twitter.com/dQCNro43XS
In the latest only-in-Trumpland episode skating precariously along the line between farce and tragedy, the president of the United States on Wednesday attacked the prime minister of Denmark because she will not sell him Greenland — and found the very notion “absurd.”
But while Mr. Trump has long derided nation-building, his flirtation with nation-buying turned out to be more serious than many originally thought. He has been talking privately about buying Greenland for more than a year and even detailed the National Security Council staff to study the idea.
At one point last year, according to a former official who heard him, he even joked in a meeting about trading Puerto Rico for Greenland — happy to rid himself of an American territory whose leadership he has feuded with repeatedly.
The ruling cleared the way for Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez Garced to become governor. Vázquez Garced, who faces widespread mistrust from Puerto Ricans and previously said she did not want the job, was sworn in at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“Puerto Rico needs certainty and stability,” Vázquez Garced said in a statement. “Our actions will be directed to that end and will always be first.”
Before he resigned on Friday in response to massive protests, embattled former governor Ricardo Rosselló appointed Pierluisi as secretary of state, the next in line for the governor’s seat. But only Puerto Rico’s House approved Pierluisi’s nomination before he was sworn in as governor on Friday.
Rosselló and Pierluisi pointed to a portion of a law of succession, amended in 2005, that permits a secretary of state to become governor without confirmation from both the House and the Senate.
On Sunday, Puerto Rico’s Senate filed a lawsuit challenging Pierluisi’s swearing in. The Supreme Court unanimously sided with the Senate, ruling that the 2005 amendment was unconstitutional. The order will take effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
UPDATE 1: According to CBS News reporter David Begnaud, Gov. Rosselló had privately agreed to resign his office but reneged. So, now Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives plans to begin impeachment proceedings.
BREAKING: Puerto Rico’s Governor had apparently agreed to resign today, but broke his word that he gave to legislators, so now the Speaker of the House of Representatives will make good on his word to impeach the Governor.https://t.co/n4lCUZdm4G
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is expected to resign Wednesday after more than a week of protests that rocked the island’s capital city, a source familiar with the situation told CNN.
Thousands have jammed the streets of San Juan calling for the governor’s resignation after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published a series of group messages between the governor and his inner circle that included homophobic and misogynistic language and jokes about Hurricane Maria victims.
The person expected to take Rosselló’s place is Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez.
The news comes a day after Rosselló’s chief of staff submitted his resignation, effective July 31.