Donald Trump claims '3,000 people did not die' in Puerto Rico hurricane

Larry Hoffman
September 14, 2018

In an interview on Wednesday, Thomas Bossert, Mr. Trump's former homeland security adviser, conceded that the president's self-congratulation about his handling of the storms in Puerto Rico should have been tempered with compassion.

In August, George Washington University released a study estimating that 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria.

When Trump visited in October 2017, two weeks after the storm hit, the death toll at the time was indeed 16 people. "As time went by it did not go up by much". Those were not needed during the response phase and were not distributed by the governor of Puerto Rico or FEMA for that reason'.

Interested in Puerto Rico? CNN's own reporting reflects similar numbers.

Half of Puerto Ricans surveyed in a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll poll said they couldn't get enough water during the storm and were concerned about water quality. Much of the U.S. territory was without power for weeks.

President Donald Trump talks on the phone aboard Air Force One during a flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address a joint gathering of House and Senate Republicans, Thursday, January 26, 2017.

The Republican president said Democrats had inflated the number of dead in Puerto Rico "in order to make me look as bad as possible" but he did not provide evidence. "This was a disgusting storm". I toured the entire island. "That is just what happened". I don't know. We will never know how many, how many we lost. I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. "I'll continue to help PR".

Throughout this week, the president has repeatedly defended his administration's effort in Puerto Rico, calling it it an "incredible, unsung success" and has renewed his verbal spat with Cruz, the San Juan mayor.

State and local officials are responsible for establishing death tolls, not the federal government.

Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor of Puerto Rico's capital San Juan and vocal critic of Trump, tweeted her dismay at his latest offensive.

"In a humanitarian crisis, you should not be grading yourself".

"I pray that his response to the current disaster unfolding along the East Coast will be better and more empathetic", he said.

"There are Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida, who could actually make or break statewide elections in Florida in 2018", she said.

While the President has frequently praised the government response in the year since the hurricane, others in the administration have acknowledged learned lessons. An independent study accepted by Puerto Rico officials concluded that 2,975 people died from the storm and its aftermath.

"We are scientists. We are public health people".

"Look, there was probably nothing we could do to save every life on the island. And so, we're reorganizing the firepower of the federal government underneath these critical lifelines, we're pushing forward", Long added.

However Trump implied the death toll was revised for political reasons.

Florida governor Rick Scott, a Republican, also lashed out, saying an independent study said thousands of lives were lost and that the island still remained devastated.

After almost a year of controversy over the figures, the island's governor said the new estimate would now be considered the official death toll. Its residents are US citizens, though they are barred from voting in presidential elections and have only one congressional delegate with limited voting powers.

The new estimated Maria death-toll estimate covers six months after the storm hit, not four, so immediately we're talking apples and at least some oranges. It was initially said to have killed just 64 people.

And, somehow, he played the politics card by blaming Democrats for the count, unbelievably making the deaths of 3,000 Americans a partisan issue.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNN's request for clarification on Trump's claim of the billions of dollars raised.

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