Trump says claim Puerto Rico hurricane killed 2,975 people is FAKE

Andrew Caballero  AFP  Getty ImagesA large rain cloud passes over a day before the arrival of hurricane Florence in Wilmington N.C. on Sept. 12 2018

President Donald Trump on Thursday rejected the official conclusion that almost 3000 people died in Puerto Rico from last year's Hurricane Maria, arguing without evidence that the number was wrong and calling it a plot by Democrats to make him "look as bad as possible". He also called the count a move by Democrats to make him look bad.

An independent study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government estimates 2,975 people died as a result of the hurricane, but Trump said that number is false. Trump dismissed the findings Thursday, tweeting: "If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list".

'When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. "Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000", Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump's tweets - which came as a highly risky Hurricane Florence churned toward the Carolinas - brought an immediate rebuke from Democrats in Congress.

In estimating the "true" death toll, researchers looked at historical data to estimate how many people would have died had the hurricane not hit the island. By increasing the official death toll, he is not just making Trump look bad - he is making himself look bad, too, not only for possible mismanagement of the hurricane response but also for releasing such unrealistically low fatality figures initially. "I don't know how they arrived at the information".

"That's the official death toll, you lunatic!" "Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!"

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People online were aghast that the president would somehow blame Democrats for an accurate death toll being reported.

But in late April, the local Puerto Rican General Services Administration requested the water bottles from FEMA and began giving them out in May.

Rossello actually praised Trump effusively after the hurricane - and Trump returned the favor, calling Rossello "a great guy and leader who is working really hard".

Today, President Trump said, "3,000 people didn't die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico".

Maria hit a year ago as Trump was feeling positive about the handling of massive hurricanes in Florida and Texas and hoping to use those efforts to stem a tide of negative press.

The White House, while describing any death from the hurricane as "a horror", sought to defend Trump's handling of the disaster, saying he had "directed the entire administration to provide unprecedented support to Puerto Rico". A USA territory since 1898, Puerto Rico's inhabitants are citizens, though they can not vote in presidential elections and have only one congressional representative with limited voting powers.

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