Americans who visited FEMA’s website yesterday, looking for information about the federal response to Hurricane Maria, could learn some important details. They’d see, for example, how many federal workers are in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They’d also learn about the number of ports, post offices, and grocery stores that have re-opened, along with how many roads have been cleared.
As the Washington Post reported, however, what visitors to FEMA’s site wouldn’t find is the news the Trump administration considers unpleasant.
As of Wednesday, half of Puerto Ricans had access to drinking water and 5 percent of the island had electricity, according to statistics published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on its Web page documenting the federal response to Hurricane Maria.
By Thursday morning, both of those key metrics were no longer on the Web page.
In other words, there are statistics available to the public, just not the ones Team Trump dislikes. The data that points to progress in Puerto Rico has been deemed worthy of promotion, while the data on access to water and electricity has suddenly disappeared.
When the Post asked FEMA about the removal of the data, an agency spokesperson pointed to other ways to find that information. As for why these statistics were removed from FEMA page, the spokesperson “didn’t elaborate.”
This would be less outrageous if it weren’t an increasingly common way this administration does business. [Update: see below.]
We learned last week, for example, that Trump’s Treasury Department decided to hide a report from career economists on the beneficiaries of a corporate tax cut. A month earlier we learned that the National Academies of Sciences had compiled evidence on the public health risks of mountaintop-removal coal mining, but Trump’s Interior Department ordered a halt to the study.
This was an important part of how the Bush/Cheney administration operated. The practice is apparently back with a vengeance.
Update: As of Friday afternoon, in response to considerable public pressure, FEMA reversed course and stared providing information it removed a day earlier.