“Quit being so emotional, Elaine, it’s not about the people, it’s about the money.” Mick Mulvaney to Elaine Duke, acting director of Homeland security in 2017.
Some news outlets stated that he was joking, where have we heard that canard before? If we have learned anything about the GOP it is that when a Republican speaks evil we should believe them.
Elaine Duke, who was acting secretary of Homeland Security for a little over four months in 2017 has become the latest White House official to speak up against her former boss. In an interview with the New York Times, Duke says a lot of things we’ve come to expect from those who have gotten a front-seat view of how President Donald Trump’s White House operates. But one little detail jumps out and manages to show that there is still a margin to be shocked by the president. Apparently, Trump suggested that maybe the United States could consider selling Puerto Rico. That happened shortly after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in the late summer of 2017.
Duke was already feeling frustrated before the hurricane even caused any devastation as she argued that there should be an emergency declaration before landfall. “Quit being so emotional, Elaine, it’s not about the people, it’s about the money,” Duke claims that Mick Mulvaney, who was then the president’s budget director, said. Mulvaney, who went on to become acting chief of staff , vehemently denies that was the case. But Duke said she got the biggest shock during the response when she heard Trump raising the possibility of getting rid of Puerto Rico entirely. “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?” The idea wasn’t ever seriously considered.
Duke was acting secretary when she signed off on ending the DACA protections—the program set up by the Obama administration to protect young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, from deportation. Duke told the Times that she agreed the program was illegal, but wasn’t ready to sign off on its closure, and that she was “ambushed” by Trump and his political allies at an August 2017 White House meeting. Last month the Supreme Court ruled that the DACA program was improperly ended—giving the Dreamers a reprieve, but also opening the door for the Trump administration to try again.
Elaine Duke is a lifelong Republican.
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- The Trump administration is attempting to gut climate considerations from major infrastructure projects by eliminating the “cumulative impact” requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act. This is concerning because Puerto Rico’s economy relies heavily on agriculture and tourism, both of which are highly dependent on climate and weather conditions.
- Agriculture: Agriculture in Puerto Rico accounts for only 3 percent of the labor force and less than 1 percent of the gross domestic product, but Hurricane Maria is still estimated to have damaged $2 billions’ worth of agriculture.
- Tourism: In 2017, the tourism industry in Puerto Rico accounted for a total economic impact of $7.8 billion and supported a total of 83,000 jobs.
- Mercury emissions in Puerto Rico decreased by nearly 11 percent from 2011 to 2017, yet the Trump administration just undermined limits on the amount of mercury and other toxic emissions that are allowed from power plants.
- In 2020, President Donald Trump proposed cutting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by more than one-quarter and the Superfund program by more than $100 million. Puerto Rico has 25 Superfund sites, and in the wake of Hurricane Maria, many of these sites were affected by flooding and other damages that caused them to leak into the surrounding groundwater and pollute waterways. After Hurricane Maria, water was pulled from the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site, a registered Superfund site. Exposure to contamination from toxic sites can lead to adverse health effects including cancer and birth defects, and Puerto Rico has confirmed multiple deaths linked to waterborne illness since the hurricane.