Trump tells FEMA to give Alabama 'A Plus treatment' after tornadoes

President Trump on Monday announced that he had directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide “A Plus treatment” to the state of Alabama and its governor after tornadoes ripped across the state, killing at least 23 people.

“FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes,” Trump tweeted. “@GovernorKayIvey, one of the best in our Country, has been so informed. She is working closely with FEMA (and me!).”

According to the National Weather Service, a tornado with at least an F3 rating (carrying winds of at least 158 mph) and a track at least half a mile wide caused catastrophic damage in Beauregard, Ala., on Sunday. Officials in Lee County warned that the death toll could rise.

“To the great people of Alabama and surrounding areas: Please be careful and safe,” the president tweeted late Sunday. “To the families and friends of the victims, and to the injured, God bless you all!”

Trump has come under fire for his response to past natural disasters, including last year’s wildfires in California and, most notably, Hurricane Maria, which left thousands of people dead in Puerto Rico.

The federal response to the storm — in contrast to the better-coordinated relief effort in Texas following Hurricane Harvey — received widespread criticism in the press and from Puerto Rican officials.

Trump denied responsibility for the slow response, blaming Puerto Rico’s inadequate electrical distribution system and the difficulty of bringing in relief supplies by ship.

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Tornadoes strike in Alabama, Georgia
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Tornadoes strike in Alabama, Georgia
BEAUREGARD, AL- MARCH 4: Damaged trees are photographed after two back-to-back tornadoes touched down in Beauregard, Alabama, U.S., on March 4, 2019 (Photo by Robert Ray for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Residents and friends help clean up after a tornado struck in Beauregard, Alabama on March 4, 2019. - Rescuers in Alabama resumed search operations Monday after at least two tornadoes killed 23 people, uprooted trees and caused 'catastrophic' damage to buildings and roads in the southern US state. 'The devastation is incredible,' Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told the local CBS affiliate late Sunday.'I cannot recall at least in the last 50 years... a situation where we have had this loss of life that we experienced today.' (Photo by Tami Chappell / AFP) (Photo credit should read TAMI CHAPPELL/AFP/Getty Images)
Resident Shannon Kelley talks on the phone as she walks down her street after a tornado struck in Beauregard, Alabama on March 4, 2019. - Kelley told AFP 'I am glad my family wasn't home' 'Its all material things that can be replaced but I have no insurance.' Rescuers in Alabama resumed search operations Monday after at least two tornadoes killed 23 people, uprooted trees and caused 'catastrophic' damage to buildings and roads in the southern US state. 'The devastation is incredible,' Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told the local CBS affiliate late Sunday.'I cannot recall at least in the last 50 years... a situation where we have had this loss of life that we experienced today.' (Photo by Tami Chappell / AFP) (Photo credit should read TAMI CHAPPELL/AFP/Getty Images)
BEAUREGARD, AL - MARCH 04: Trees lay snapped in half in the aftermath of a tornado on March 4, 2019 in Beauregard, Alabama. At least 23 people are confirmed dead following Sunday's tornado outbreak with violent storms that left debris strewn across southern Alabama and Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
SMITH STATION, AL - MARCH 04: Gabe and Brandi O'Neal embrace outside of the Buck Wild Saloon after it was destroyed by a tornado on March 4, 2019 in Smith Station, Alabama. No customers were inside the bar when the tornado hit Sunday afternoon. At least 23 people are confirmed dead following Sunday's tornado outbreak with violent storms that left debris strewn across southern Alabama and Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
BEAUREGARD, AL - MARCH 04: Volunteers and residents clean up trees and debris from a tornado at a home on March 4, 2019 in Beauregard, Alabama. At least 23 people are confirmed dead following Sunday's tornado outbreak with violent storms that left debris strewn across southern Alabama and Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
Damage is seen from a tornado which killed at least 23 people in Beauregard, Alabama on March 4, 2019. - Rescuers in Alabama were set to resume search operations Monday after at least two tornadoes killed 23 people, uprooted trees and caused 'catastrophic' damage to buildings and roads in the southern US state.'The devastation is incredible,' Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told the local CBS affiliate late Sunday.'I cannot recall at least in the last 50 years... a situation where we have had this loss of life that we experienced today.' (Photo by Tami Chappell / AFP) (Photo credit should read TAMI CHAPPELL/AFP/Getty Images)
Damage is seen from a tornado which killed at least 23 people in Beauregard, Alabama on March 4, 2019. - Rescuers in Alabama were set to resume search operations Monday after at least two tornadoes killed 23 people, uprooted trees and caused 'catastrophic' damage to buildings and roads in the southern US state.'The devastation is incredible,' Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told the local CBS affiliate late Sunday.'I cannot recall at least in the last 50 years... a situation where we have had this loss of life that we experienced today.' (Photo by Tami Chappell / AFP) (Photo credit should read TAMI CHAPPELL/AFP/Getty Images)
Carol Dean, right, cries while embraced by Megan Anderson and her 18-month-old daughter Madilyn, as Dean sifts through the debris of the home she shared with her husband, David Wayne Dean, who died when a tornado destroyed the house in Beauregard, Ala., Monday, March 4, 2019. "He was my wedding gift," said Dean of her husband whom she married three years ago. "He was one in a million. He'd send me flowers to work just to let me know he loved me. He'd send me some of the biggest strawberries in the world. I'm not going to be the same." (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Matthew Schell looks for personal mementos by flashlight at dusk in the rubble of the house destroyed by a tornado which killed his uncle, David Wayne Dean, in Beauregard, Ala., Monday, March 4, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Danny Allen recovers a family photo while sifting through the debris of a friend's home destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala., Monday, March 4, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Granadas Baker, left, and son Granadas Jr. 18, right, retrieve personal items from the damaged home where they survived a tornado a day earlier in Beauregard, Ala., Monday, March 4, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Debris from a home litters a yard the day after a tornado blew it off its foundation, lower right, in Beauregard, Ala., Monday, March 4, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Danny Allen helps recover belongings while sifting through the debris of a friend's home destroyed by a tornado in Beauregard, Ala., Monday, March 4, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Residents of Talbotton, Ga. pray together outside a home destroyed by a tornado the day after storms battered Alabama and Georgia, Monday, March 4, 2019. (Grant Blankenship /The Macon Telegraph via AP)
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Weeks after the hurricane hit, Trump said the administration’s response deserved a grade of 10 out of 10, even as most of the U.S. territory remained without power.

“I think we did a fantastic job,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in October 2017. “We have done a really great job.”

Yet Trump also reportedly tried to deny Puerto Rico federal relief money. According to the Washington Post, the president told then-White House chief of staff John Kelly and and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney that “he did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico, because he thought the island was misusing the money.”

Trump has also disputed the death toll from Hurricane Maria, which was revised upward from less than two dozen in the immediate aftermath to several thousand, blaming Democrats, without evidence, for inflating the figure.

Last May, a Harvard study estimated the death toll from Maria to be 4,645. In August, the official death toll from Puerto Rico officials, calculated by researchers with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, was put at 2,975. Either number would make Maria the deadliest natural disaster in the United States in over a century.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Trump tweeted in September. “When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”

At a briefing with FEMA officials on Hurricane Florence at the White House, Trump said the Puerto Rican response was “incredibly successful” and “one of the best jobs that’s ever been done.”

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