With a powerful hurricane bearing down on the southeast coast, President Donald Trump on Tuesday turned attention back to the federal government's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago, deeming it "incredibly successful" even though a recent federal report found that nearly 3,000 people died, the AP reports. The administration's efforts in Puerto Rico received widespread criticism. But "I actually think it was one of the best jobs that's ever been done with respect to what this is all about," Trump said Tuesday of the response in Puerto Rico, suggesting that it was made more difficult by the "island nature" of the storm site. The president praised the response to the series of storms that battered the United States last year, saying "I think Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success. Texas we've been given A-pluses for. Florida we've been given A-pluses for."
After visiting Puerto Rico last September, Trump said that Puerto Ricans were fortunate that the storm did not yield a catastrophe akin to the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. All told, about 1,800 people died in that 2005 storm. Puerto Rico's governor last month raised the US territory's official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975. The storm is also estimated to have caused $100 billion in damage. While defending the handling of the previous storms, Trump on Tuesday urged caution in regards to the new one bearing down on North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. "The safety of American people is my absolute highest priority," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "We are sparing no expense. We are totally prepared. We are ready. We are ready as anybody has ever been." (A recent simulation showed a hurricane "alarmingly similar" to Florence devastating the East Coast.)