Politics

Trump Denies Being Distracted by NFL Flap

'I have plenty of time on my hands,' president says

President Donald Trump listens to a question from a member of the media after he returned to the White House from Florida on Sept. 14 after viewing hurricane damage there. On Tuesday, he denied being distracted by his feud with the NFL from helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday rejected any notion his war of words with NFL players, owners and various and sundry other professional athletes has kept him from adequately dealing with post-hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico, even as he kept at it and issued yet another bellicose warning to North Korea.

Earlier in the day, Trump brought his back-and-forth with the country’s top professional sport into its fifth consecutive day with a trio of morning tweets boasting about the Dallas Cowboys being booed in Arizona Monday night when they knelt in unison before the anthem played.

[Trump Hits Cowboys, Keeping Alive Feud With NFL Players]

As Trump began his barb-trading with NFL players, Hurricane Maria was bashing the U.S. territory island. The storm left the entire island without power, and will require a massive response, including aid dollars, from Washington.

On Tuesday, the ever-defiant Trump contended he was anything but distracted by the NFL controversy as Maria unleashed devastation on Puerto Rico. Trump essentially delivered a different version of something some of his top aides often say in trying to dismiss the distraction charges — that they can walk and chew gum simultaneously.

“I have plenty of time on my hands,” he said. “All I do is work.”

The president repeatedly congratulated himself and his administration’s response to Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Louisiana and Irma in Florida and points north. He said multiple times he and his team did a “great job” responding to those storms and pledged his administration already is getting similar reviews from senior officials in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which also felt Maria’s wrath.

Critics in Congress were not so sure. 

“I think relief efforts could do a whole lot better,” Schumer said when asked about Trump’s boasts.

“A couple of hours ago I spoke again with the governor of Puerto Rico,” Schumer said. “It is impossible, impossible to overstate the seriousness of the situation on the island,” he continued.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, Trump said his explained his sports flap by telling reporters in a sweltering Rose Garden he felt “ashamed” by players kneeling during the national anthem to protest what they see as problems with American society on issues like police brutality.

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He said anthem protests are an affront to military members who have died or been “badly injured” defending the “Star Spangled Banner” and the American flag. Such pregame protests, he said, are “disgraceful.”

And when asked about the North Korean government’s threat to shoot down American warplanes, Trump once again had a warning that if he decides to use military force there, “it will be devastating.” 

Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this story.

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