The Latest: Trump says US must ‘wipe out’ Puerto Rico debt

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and Puerto Rico (all times local):

12:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump says “We’re going to have to wipe out” Puerto Rico’s debt in the wake of destruction caused by Hurricane Maria.

He tells Fox News in an interview that: “We’re going to work something out.”

He goes on to say: “We have to look at their whole debt structure. You know, they owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street. And we’re going to have to wipe that out.”

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about how the president wanted to do that.

Trump spoke to Fox in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which he toured Tuesday.

Before the storm, the island’s government was in the midst of bitter negotiations with creditors to restructure a portion of its $73 billion in debt. The island’s previous governor had declared that debt unpayable.


8:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump is congratulating Puerto Rico for escaping the higher death toll of “a real catastrophe like Katrina” and heaping praise on the relief efforts of his administration without mentioning the sharp criticism the federal response has drawn.

Trump calls the recovery “really nothing short of a miracle,” an assessment at odds with the despair of many still struggling to find water and food outside the capital city. The governor of Puerto Rico said late Tuesday that the official death toll has been increased to 34 from 16.

Trump pledged an all-out effort to help the island while adding, somewhat lightly, that the disaster has “thrown our budget a little out of whack.”


6:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump says his tour of storm damage in Puerto Rico was a “terrific visit” and the residents of the U.S. island “are so thankful for what we’ve done.”

He told reporters aboard Air Force One that “we only heard thank-yous” during the visit, and said it was “an honor” to spend time in Puerto Rico amid its recovery from Hurricane Maria.

Asked to expand on earlier comments, Trump said the U.S. needs “distributors” delivering food, water and supplies. Trump says the best people to hand out provisions are local people, but notes that many of them have lost their homes.

He says, “On a local level, we need help, but they really have responded very well.”


4:20 p.m.

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, says she’s hopeful that President Donald Trump and his White House have a better handle on the island’s needs after visiting Tuesday.

Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz is tweeting that the meetings between local officials and White House staff were “productive.” And she says she hopes new channels of communication with the White House “put in motion what is needed” to save lives.

But Cruz still was critical of Trump himself in an interview with CNN. She says he sometimes “spouts” comments “that really hurt the people of Puerto Rico.” And the mayor says Trump is sometimes more “miscommunicator in chief” than commander in chief.


4:15 p.m.

Two Democratic congressmen who just returned from the island say conditions on many parts of the island remain dire.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois says President Donald Trump didn’t visit mountainous interior regions where many sick and elderly people are trapped.

Guitierrez says Trump’s visit is yielding video footage of people smiling and it’s giving “the wrong impression of what’s going on in the island.”

Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York says conditions on many parts of the island are so serious that a $20 billion relief package is needed just for starters.


1:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Puerto Rico suffered a relatively low death toll from Hurricane Maria compared with “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” which killed more than a thousand people in 2005.

Trump spoke as he toured the island Tuesday. He pledged an all-out effort to help Puerto Rico.

The president said that while “every death is a horror,” he drew a distinction between “a real catastrophe like Katrina” and “what happened here” in Puerto Rico, where at least 16 people died.


3: 15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is tossing rolls of paper towels out to a crowd of Puerto Ricans as he hands out supplies to the storm-damaged island’s residents.

On his first visit to survey damage from Hurricane Maria, the president lobbed at least five rolls into a crowd gathered at Calvary Chapel. Many caught them with a smile and took cell phone photos.

Trump praised the roughly 200 people gathered there, saying there was a lot of “love” in the room.

The president also handed out flashlights and said of the recovery that “the job that’s been done here is really nothing short of a miracle.”


1:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Puerto Rico’s electrical power, virtually knocked out by Hurricane Maria, is headed toward flickering on again.

“It’s being fixed” he told reporters Tuesday during his first visit to the island. He added that the power grid was “devastated before the hurricanes even hit.”

He said lots of generators have been brought to the island and most hospitals are at least partially open.

Trump said “The job that’s been done here is really nothing short of a miracle.”

He has come under fire for what critics said was a slow response to the devastation. Maria wiped out power to Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million people and left them short of food, water and supplies.


1:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump has handed out supplies at a church in Puerto Rico.

About 200 local residents are at Calvary Chapel, cheering Trump as he walks in. Tables nearby were lined with supplies that included paper towels, bags of rice. Candybars, water bottles.

The president shook hands and handed people flashlights. A few times, he tossed paper towel rolls into the crowd.

Surrounded by a sea of cellphone cameras, Trump said, “There’s a lot of love in this room.” He called those in attendance, “Great people.”


1:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump is touring the storm damage of San Juan and hearing the stories of residents still recovering from Hurricane Maria.

The president is visiting neighborhoods and has told one resident that the governor and the mayor are “doing a good job.”

Recently, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz criticized the pace of the federal government’s response and drew Trump’s scorn.

The president’s visit included meetings with her and other local officials. As he left the airport, the president’s motorcade snaked through streets lined with downed tree limbs, mangled signs and drooping power lines. A beach was covered in debris.

Scattered groups of people gathered to watch the motorcade pass. One held a sign reading, “Climate change is real.” Another’s said: “You are a bad hombre.”


12:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump is pledging to help Puerto Rico continue to recover from Hurricane Maria’s devastation. He is defending his administration’s handling of the disaster that knocked out power to the U.S. island’s 3.4 million people.

In an airport hangar in Puerto Rico, Trump also sought praise from local officials. He repeated that they have to help with the recovery and scolded them for the costs of disaster recovery. Trump said, “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico.”

Trump’s visit comes after what critics have said was a slow response.


11:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, have arrived in storm-damaged Puerto Rico.

The first couple is visiting Tuesday to review the U.S. island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria, which blew ashore Sept. 20. They are meeting with local and federal officials working to restore power and deliver food and supplies to Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million people.

Trump’s visit comes after what critics have said was a too-slow response to the crisis on the island. The president said Tuesday that local “have to give us more help” in responding to the devastation. Trump on Tuesday praised the federal response, saying, “it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done.”


8:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump says the federal government has done a good job in Puerto Rico responding to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, but says local officials need to “give us more help.”

Trump says Tuesday that “in Texas and in Florida we get an A-plus, and I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico.”

Trump says roads are cleared and communications are “starting to come back.” He says on a “local level they have to give us more help.”

The president lashed out at the mayor of San Juan after she criticized the federal response. He now says that San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz “has come back a long way.”

The White House says Cruz had been invited to participate in Tuesday’s events, but it was unclear whether she and the president would meet.


4 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting Tuesday with some of the 3.4 million Puerto Ricans struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, as criticism of the federal government’s sluggish response continues.

The president is expected to spend more than five hours on the ground, meeting with first responders, local officials and some of the residents struggling to recover from a hurricane that, in the president’s words, left the island U.S. territory “flattened.”

Trump and first lady Melania Trump are scheduled to attend briefings, visit a church, and meet with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, as well as the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. They’ll also meet with Navy and Marine Corps personnel on the flight deck of the USS Kearsarge.