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Trump refuses meeting over hurricane relief, Puerto Rico governor says

Rosselló said the White House declined his requests to meet with the president directly without giving a reason.
Image: Key Speakers At The SelectUSA Investment Summit
Ricardo Rossello, governor of Puerto Rico, speaks during the SelectUSA Investment Summit in National Harbor, Maryland.Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Puerto Rico's governor said President Donald Trump is refusing to meet privately with him to discuss the pace of disaster relief 17 months after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told reporters at a round table on Friday that the White House declined public and private requests to meet ahead of the governors’ conference taking place in the nation's capital this weekend. Rosselló said Trump bears responsibility for the slow pace of disaster relief.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the governor’s team has been in regular contact with federal officials, Rosselló said the White House declined his requests to meet with Trump directly without giving a reason. Rosselló hopes to speak to the president when dozens of governors attend a White House meeting on Monday.

Carlos Mercader, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, which represents the island's government in the U.S., told NBC News that the Rosselló administration requested a formal meeting following reports that the administration could use $2.5 billion set aside to finance reconstruction projects in the island to pay for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“We didn’t get the meeting that we wanted,” said Mercader in Spanish. “But they didn’t rule out the possibility of a private meeting later on.”

Instead, the White House suggested Rosselló meet with two federal agencies that are crucial to Puerto Rico's recovery: Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Rosselló met with HUD secretary Ben Carson and FEMA administrator Brrock Long over the last week and a half, Mercader said.