Former Department of Homeland Security official Miles Taylor said in an interview with MSNBC Wednesday that he witnessed President Donald Trump describe Puerto Rico as "dirty" and "poor" when raising the possibility of exchanging the island for Greenland.
But according to Taylor, a former DHS chief of staff who now supports Joe Biden's campaign for president, Trump was not joking when the president raised the issue before a trip to Puerto Rico in August 2018.
"Behind the scenes, the president expressed deep animosity against the people of Puerto Rico," Taylor said.
MSNBC's Hallie Jackson had asked Taylor what he remembered as "most disturbing" in past discussions with Trump.
"These are people who were recovering from the worst disaster of their lives. He is their president. He should be standing by them, not trying to sell them off to a foreign country," Taylor said.
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In July, Elaine Duke, the former acting secretary of homeland security, told The New York Times that the president raised the possibility of "selling" Puerto Rico as it struggled to recover from the ravages of Hurricane Maria.
“The president’s initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know,” she said. “Can we outsource the electricity? Can we can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?”
She said that the idea was never seriously considered or discussed after Trump raised them.
A White House spokesman did not deny Taylor's specific allegations on Wednesday, but instead said the former Trump administration official wanted to "cash-in."
"This individual is another creature of the D.C. Swamp who never understood the importance of the President’s agenda or why the American people elected him and clearly just wants to cash-in," Judd Deere said in an initial statement. "President Trump has an unprecedented number of accomplishments in spite of government bureaucrats who are only out for themselves, not the forgotten men and women of this country."
Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, a Republican who represents the island as a non-voting member of Congress, tweeted in Spanish Thursday that she "strongly condemned" the comments attributed to Trump and had "communicated to the White House the outrage of our people," which she shared.
She added that Puerto Ricans are resilient, humble and many have served patriotically in the military.
Taylor this week endorsed Biden and appeared in a video produced by Republican Voters Against Trump where he alleged the president would give "illegal orders" and “didn’t want us to tell him it was illegal anymore" because Trump believed he had "magical authorities."
Biden's campaign responded to Taylor's comments by saying Puerto Ricans "deserve better than constant contempt, animosity and neglect."