Following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, President Trump openly weighed the option of selling Puerto Rico. Former acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke told the New York Times about Trump’s attempts to address Puerto Rico’s troubles with business tactics.

“The president's initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know,” Duke said. “Can we outsource the electricity? Can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?” 

Despite Trump raising the proposition, Duke said that the idea was not seriously considered, nor was it ever brought up again. She also claimed that Trump showed genuine concern for the suffering of the Puerto Rican people.

In the same interview, Duke claimed that budget director Mick Mulvaney shot down her proposal to declare an emergency in Puerto Rico prior to the storm making landfall.

“Quit being so emotional, Elaine,” he allegedly said. “It’s not about the people, it’s about the money.”

While nothing came of it, the idea is consistent with other reports of Trump’s attempts to approach governance like a business. In August 2019, reports emerged that Trump had raised the prospect of buying Greenland, the autonomous Danish island territory in the northern Atlantic Ocean. This notion went nowhere as well, with Greenland’s leaders emphatically stating that their land was not for sale.

The New York Times in August 2019 cited a former official who heard Trump once joke in a meeting about trading Puerto Rico for Greenland.

Trump’s handling of Puerto Rico after the hurricane was viewed as one of the early failures of his administration. With nearly 3,000 killed and infrastructure destroyed, the territory was left in a dire state with insufficient aid and support sent by the U.S. government. Despite the perception of many that Trump left Puerto Rico to fend for itself, he later claimed that his handling of the disaster was “an incredible, unsung success."

US President Donald Trump reacted angrily to the Supreme Court rulings US President Donald Trump reacted angrily to the Supreme Court rulings Photo: AFP / JIM WATSON