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President Trump praises himself for administration's 'great job' in Puerto Rico

President Donald Trump talks to reporters as first lady Melania Trump looks on, before they board Marine One for a trip to Puerto Rico, at the White House in Washington, Oct. 3, 2017. Trump plans to tour the island recently ravaged by Hurricane Maria. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times. Copyright The New York Times, 2017.)

President Donald Trump praised himself for the "great job" he claims his administration has done in responding to the hurricane that decimated Puerto Rico last month, speaking as he prepared to depart for his first visit to the devastated island territory.

But Trump's comments - and his trip to Puerto Rico - come nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria first ravaged the island, and the president will touch down in San Juan amid harsh criticism of the administration's slow response to the natural disaster.

Trump's highly scripted visit will include a briefing on relief efforts, a meeting with senior military personnel - as well as with Govs. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico, and Kenneth Mapp of the U.S. Virgin Islands - and an opportunity to visit with people impacted by the storm and the Navy and Marine Corps.

The president, who will be accompanied by the first lady, is not expected to stray far from San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital and largest city, where recovery is most far along.

It is unclear if Trump will encounter San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been deeply critical of the government's relief efforts and who has been criticized by Trump on Twitter. On Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Cruz had been invited to participate in Trump's visit, but the mayor's name did not appear on the president's public schedule.

Trump's mixed reviews, however, did not stop him from lavishing praise on himself and his administration. On Tuesday, as the president, clad in a black Windbreaker and khakis, departed the White House, he said Cruz has "come back a long way," before returning to one his favorite topics - himself and his performance.

"I think it's now acknowledged what a great job we've done, and people are looking at that," he said. "And in Texas and in Florida, we get an A+. And I'll tell you what, I think we've done just as good in Puerto Rico, and it's actually a much tougher situation. But now the roads are cleared, communications is starting to come back. We need their truck drivers to start driving trucks."

He also thanked Rosselló for positive comments he had made about the administration's work in Puerto Rico, saying, "He has said we have done an incredible job, and that's the truth."

Trump's response to Maria offers a sharp contrast with his actions in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged Southeast Texas. Trump visited Texas twice in the week after Harvey's landfall, first in a more commander in chief role, checking in on relief efforts, and then as a consoler-in-chief, offering hugs and prayers.

Though Trump and his administration initially offered a flurry of action as Maria tore through Puerto Rico, the president then effectively went dark, decamping for a long weekend at his private club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The president at points also seemed to the blame Puerto Ricans themselves for their plight, lashing out at the mayor of San Juan - after she pleaded on cable television for the federal government to "save us from dying" - for her "poor leadership ability" and writing on Twitter that the island's citizens "want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort."

Trump's visit comes as he is facing yet another tragedy not of his own making - a shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas that left at least 59 people dead and hundreds more injured. The mass shooting is the deadliest attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, and Trump is scheduled to visit Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Author Information: Ashley Parker is a White House reporter for The Washington Post.

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