Trump's indifference towards the tragedy and loss of life in Puerto Rico continues to have unintended effects weeks later as the island struggles to regain power.
Over a month ago, Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico and knocked out power for the entire island. Two-thirds of the island is still without power.
Trump's response to the disaster was infamously inadequate. He attacked San Juan's mayor (who later appeared in a TV interview wearing a nasty woman t-shirt), said that Puerto Ricans wanted everything done for them, and said helping the island was a financial burden for the rest of the United States.
Puerto Rico hired a tiny Montana energy company called Whitefish to handle getting the island back up and running, likely to fill the gap the federal government was refusing to.
The problem is, at the time it was hired under a $300 million contract, Whitefish only had two full-time employees for a job that requires far more.
Furthermore, Puerto Rico opted out of mutual aid agreements with utility companies in other states in order to hire Whitefish, who was charging unusually high rates for the job.
The company happens to be based in the same town where US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is from, even though he conveniently said he had nothing to do with the deal.
What's Happening Now:
The FBI is investigating the contract between Whitefish and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and how they agreed to the deal.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico's state-run electric utility accepted the governor's request to cancel Whitefish's contract.
Critics said that within the contract in question there is a provision that seeks to limit the government's ability to audit Whitefish, whose size itself should have disqualified it from the job.
Puerto Rico said that it hired Whitefish outside of a competitive bidding process because the company does not require a large down payment.
Several government agencies are concerned about the deal. According to The Hill:
The FBI is just the latest government body to probe the Whitefish deal.
Both the House Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources Committees launched investigations last week, as did the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, which has jurisdiction over the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Puerto Rico’s own government is also reviewing how the contract came about.
Naturally, both the Trump administration and Secretary Zinke have tried to distance themselves from the shady deal, especially considering how little assistance Trump offered the island in wake of the humanitarian crisis.
Zinke's statement denying any involvement in the contract sounds like something Trump would have written himself, according to The Hill:
“I had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract in Puerto Rico. Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless,” Zinke said in the Friday afternoon statement.
Just like Trump: when in hot water, blame fake news.
Both Whitefish and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority have defended the deal and said nothing illegal went on behind the scenes.
H/T: The Hill