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President Trump suggested selling Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, ex-official says

The intense 2017 storm killed thousands of people and resulted in more than $40 billion worth of damage.
Credit: AFP Contributor
Thousands of homes were destroyed in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — President Donald Trump reportedly floated the idea of selling Puerto Rico back in 2017 after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the U.S. territory.

That’s what former acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke told The New York Times.

According to the newspaper, she heard Trump raise the possibility of "selling" or "divesting" the island while it was struggling to recover. The idea was never seriously discussed or considered afterward.

"The president’s initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know," said Duke, a lifelong Republican, to the Times. "Can we outsource the electricity? Can we can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?"

Duke led the Department of Homeland Security after retired Gen. John Kelly became White House chief of staff.

Credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testifying before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017.

Researchers say 2,975 people in Puerto Rico died as a result of Hurricane Maria. USA TODAY reports the storm caused at least $43 billion in damage to the island.

Duke also claimed Mick Mulvaney, who was serving as Trump's budget director and had served as his acting chief of staff, quashed the idea of an emergency declaration before Hurricane Maria's landfall.

"Quit being so emotional, Elaine, it’s not about the people, it’s about the money," Mulvaney reportedly said.

He fired back last week, speaking with the Times: "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."

Duke considers herself a lifelong Republican, someone who supported tougher immigration laws but only if it came with a sense of humanity, the Times reported. 

She left the Trump administration in 2018.

RELATED: Puerto Rico's Hurricane Maria death toll hiked to 2,975

RELATED: A program exists to help Hurricane Maria evacuees -- why isn't it being used?

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