Trump pivots back to Maria, says Dems inflated death toll

Blanche Robertson
September 14, 2018

President Trump on Thursday falsely accused Democrats of inflating the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico past year, rejecting a government assessment that the storm had claimed almost 3,000 lives.

"When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from six to 18 deaths", Trump said. As time went by it did not go up by much. They then compared this baseline to the actual number of deaths, and voila!

A report earlier this month by the Government Accountability Office described the government as "down to the bottom of the barrel" in staffing by the time Maria hit Puerto Rico, citing a series of other hurricanes and catastrophic wildfires a year ago that overwhelmed federal disaster responders.

Last May, Harvard University public health researchers published a study that estimated the death toll was even higher.

But Trump said he believes this "was one of the best jobs that's ever been done with respect to what this is all about".

In a pair of tweets Thursday, Trump accused Democrats of inflating the number to make him look bad.

At the same time, the top Republican in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, said he had no reason to dispute the official death toll, while Republican Senator Marco Rubio said tragedy should not be politicised.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosello said in a statement this week that Maria was "the worst natural disaster in our modern history". In August, after a thorough review, Puerto Rican officials accepted a revised estimate of the dead as 2,975.

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Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Democrat mayor of San Juan in Puerto Rico, called Mr Trump "delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality".

Earlier this week, Donald Trump declared his administration's response to Hurricane Maria an "incredible, unsung success". "You couldn't get to people for a long time on the island because roads were washed out, power was gone and the casualties mounted for a long time", Ryan said.

Trump made the comments Thursday on Twitter as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas.

The tweets come after intense criticism of federal help in the region's restoration efforts, so it's not exactly surprising Trump would deign to construe the official death estimate as an attack on him personally.

As for the power outage that left hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans in the dark for months, the agency will now rely on workers from private power companies to begin repairs after Florence.

Photos have emerged showing 20,000 pallets of bottled water meant for victims still sitting on a runway in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, a year after the storm.

"This study, commissioned by the Government of Puerto Rico, was carried out with complete independence and freedom from any kind of interference", the university said in a statement.

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