US President Donald Trump wanted to exchange Puerto Rico for Danish-owned island of Greenland, Miles Taylor, who served as chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, said in an interview on Wednesday.
"[Trump] told us, not only did he want to purchase Greenland, he actually said he wanted to see if we could sell Puerto Rico - could we swap Puerto Rico for Greenland," Taylor said.
Taylor said the perceived subpar financial and physical state of the US territory motivated Trump to mull the deal.
Last year, Trump expressed interest in buying Denmark's autonomous region. After Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen rejected the idea, Trump cancelled a visit to Denmark.
Earlier in July, Elaine Duke, the former acting secretary of homeland security told The New York Times that after a devastating hurricane in 2017 that had caused significant damage to Puerto Rico, at a closed meeting Trump briefly voiced an idea of selling the island. However, this issue was never discussed after that, according to Duke.
Puerto Rico, currently an unincorporated US territory, will hold a referendum in November on whether it should become a US state. It will ask one question: Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted as a US state? The results of the referendum will be non-binding and will need approval from Congress. So far, Congress has never acted on the island's previous referendums, the last of which was organized in 2017.
Puerto Ricans are US citizens but cannot vote in US presidential elections. The island is exempt from the US federal income tax but gets less federal funding than US states. The status of the island nation has been raising additional concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.