Trump suggested selling Puerto Rico in response to Hurricane Maria, says former Cabinet official

Elaine Duke, a former Homeland Security secretary, says Trump's reaction after the 2017 disaster was, 'Can we sell the island?'

Trump throws paper towels out to Puerto Rico hurricane victims

A former cabinet official has revealed that President Donald Trump suggested that one response to the devastation of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria would be to sell the US territory.

Elaine Duke, who served as Mr Trump’s second secretary of Homeland Security when John Kelly was promoted to chief-of-staff, recalled the president’s initial reaction in an interview with The New York Times this week.

“The president’s initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know,” she said. “Can we outsource the electricity? Can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?”

In his time in office, the president has also suggested buying Greenland from Denmark or trading the Arctic territory for Puerto Rico.

Ms Duke clarified that the idea of selling Puerto Rico was never seriously considered or discussed after it was raised, and that the president had shown concern for the suffering of the island’s people after the disaster.

However she said that the president's concern was overshadowed when he traded angry tweets with politicians in Puerto Rico, which she saw as a frustrating distraction.

Ms Duke said that as the hurricane approached the island in the autumn of 2017, she was derided by other members of the cabinet for trying to get the president to take the situation more seriously.

Having argued for an emergency declaration before the hurricane made landfall, Ms Duke said that Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director at the time, told her: “Quit being so emotional, Elaine, it’s not about the people, it’s about the money.”

Mr Mulvaney denies making the remark.

Ms Duke is the latest ex-cabinet member to criticise her former boss. She told the Times that Trump cares little about policy, and uses “hate-filled, angry and divisive” language.

The most significant role Ms Duke played in her time in the administration was signing the memo to end DACA in 2017 — the Obama-era protections for young immigrants. She said that she was pressured into the plan after being cut out of the decision-making process.

Ms Duke did not include any policy reasons for ending the programme in the memo as she did not agree with the ideas being pushed by then attorney general Jeff Sessions, and Mr Trump's adviser Stephen Miller.

The lack of any specific policy reasoning was at the centre of the Supreme Court ruling invalidating the decision in 2020. The court found that the Trump administration had not considered the implications of shutting down the programme.

Ms Duke, a lifelong Republican, has said that she is not sure if she will vote for the president again.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in