President Trump inquired about selling Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The revelation was made by then-acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke.
Duke, who had been with DHS and the Department of Defense for 30 years was filling in as head of DHS when John Kelly left that position to transition to White House Chief of Staff, in 2017. She served in the interim role for four months before Kirstjen Nielsen was confirmed as a permanent successor.
The President’s inquiries came as the island was struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States.
“The president’s initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know,” Duke says. “Can we outsource the electricity? Can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?” Duke did say that Trump never seriously discussed selling Puerto Rico any more after that comment.
Duke also says that she pushed for an emergency declaration for the island before Maria made landfall but that Mick Mulvaney, then White House budget director, criticized the idea.
“Quit being so emotional, Elaine, it’s not about the people, it’s about the money,” she says he told her.
Mulvaney denies making those remarks. “I never made such a remark. My experience with the acting director was that she rarely got anything right at D.H.S. At least she’s consistent,” he said.
Photo by Puerto Rico Army National Guard