Trump Says Democrats Inflated Puerto Rico Death Toll From Hurricane Maria

Jay Schwartz secure plywood over the windows of their business ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence Sept. 11 2018 in Myrtle Beach S.C

Joe Raedle Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Thursday sought to call into question the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, saying the death toll from the summer 2017 storm, which has been revised to almost 3,000 people, was the work of Democrats looking to tarnish his record.

While FEMA is blaming the Puerto Rico government for dropping the ball, a Puerto Rican official claimed that distributing the water to Maria's victims was FEMA's responsibility.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico", Trump tweeted. As time went by it did not go up by much.

The Republican president went on to accuse Democrats of inflating the death toll to make him look bad, without providing evidence.

The Puerto Rican government initially linked just 64 deaths to Maria.

Trump said that unrelated deaths were added to inflate the number.

"The job that FEMA, and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous", Trump added.

Long, the FEMA chief, held a conference call for reporters on Thursday morning to describe the Trump administration's efforts to prepare for Hurricane Florence.

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, slammed Trump for the comments nearly immediately.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that the incoming storm is "looking even bigger than anticipated", urging those in the hurricane's path to "get out of its way".

'You have people who died after the storm passed because they fell off their roof making repairs, they died in vehicle crashes because the stoplights were off, you have chainsaw accidents, you have accidents with people cleaning up debris, ' he said.

"The latest study. puts the tragedy of Hurricane Maria on the same scale as the September 11th attacks", Thompson said.

Trump tweeted Thursday as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas. "You did not do a good job in Puerto Rico".

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, seized on Trump's use of the word "successful" and said in a statement issued later Tuesday: "No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called "successful" because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states".

However, the report says, "the Government of Puerto Rico does not have control over the federal land" and was unable to get to the water.

Trump earned some heavy criticism for those remarks, including from the outspoken mayor of the capital San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, on Tuesday night.

"But the President continues to refuse to acknowledge his responsibility, and the problem is that if he didn't acknowledge it in Puerto Rico, God bless the people of SC and the people of North Carolina", Cruz said.

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