Paul Ryan Visits Puerto Rico as Trump, Who’d Been Critical, Offers Support

House Speaker Paul Ryan is traveling to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico Friday as President Donald Trump assured residents that he "will always be with them."

Ryan and other members of a congressional delegation met at the airport briefly with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday.

He and other members of the delegation then boarded helicopters with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello to see some of the areas that the storm hit hardest Sept. 20.

More than three weeks later, only 9 percent of Puerto Rico has power and 63 percent has water, mainly in San Juan and the south and east. Thirty-six percent of cellphone towers are out of service and 18 bridges closed, making travel in some parts of the island difficult, Telemundo Puerto Rico reported. 

Ryan's visit is further demonstration of the federal government's commitment to helping Puerto Rico recover, coming a day after Trump lashed out at the island, insisting that the federal government can't keep sending help "forever." He'd also suggested the U.S. territory is to blame for its financial struggles.

After that comment, several federal officials, including White House chief of staff John Kelly committed to working on the recovery for the long haul.

The U.S. will "stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done," Kelly said.

Trump took a softer tone on Friday, saying in a tweet that "the wonderful people of Puerto Rico" have an "unmatched spirit." He added, "I will always be with them!"

But he also said again that residents "know how bad things were before" the hurricanes.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, an outspoken critic of the way Trump has handled the hurricane response, told NBC News late Thursday that "whomever deletes [Trump's Twitter] account should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize."

Ryan's visit came a day after Congress passed a $36.5 billion multistate disaster package that includes assistance for Puerto Rico. But officials warn more will be needed.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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