(CNN/WDHN) — The tension between President Trump and the governor of Puerto Rico continues to escalate as the U.S. commonwealth grows frustrated with the lack of disaster relief effort after Hurricane Maria.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Governor Ricardo Rosselló had a warning for the White House.
“If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth,“ Rosselló said.
“Just like that?“ CNN’s Jim Acosta asked.
“Just like that,“ the governor responded. “Don’t… It would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.“
Despite their requests, Rosselló’s team said Trump declined to meet with him to discuss recovery efforts.
It’s been nearly two years since the storm hit the island, and because of the perceived lack of support, Rosselló accused the president of treating Puerto Ricans like second class citizens.
“That’s for sure,“ Rosselló said. “And my you know my consideration is I just want to have the opportunity to explain to him why the data and information that he’s getting is wrong. You know, I don’t … think getting into a kicking and screaming match with the president does any good. I don’t think anybody can beat the president on a kicking and screaming match. I think that what I am aiming to do is making sure that reason prevails, that empathy prevails, that equality prevails and that we can have a discussion.“
The White House did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. WDHN reached out to the governor’s communications office to clarify what the governor meant by punching “the bully in the mouth” and is still awaiting a response.
It is worth noting that credible threats to the president are federal offenses can be punished with up to five years in prison or up to $250,000 in fines. However, threats as part political hyperbole and jokes are not criminal offenses and can be protected speech.