Trump Accuses Democrats of Altering Statistics on Hurricane Deaths in Puerto Rico

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September 13, 2018

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Thursday to lambast an official report on Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year, accusing Democrats of inflating the number of deaths.

Trump reignited the controversy around the U.S. government’s management of the disaster when he said Tuesday it was an "incredible, unsung success." 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.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths," Trump wrote. "As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000."

"This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico," Trump added. "If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!"

The 3,000 figure Trump referenced comes from a study conducted by George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. Infrastructure failures and political confusion appear to have contributed to deaths even months after the storm hit, as GW’s study found a lasting spike in mortality rates, especially in poor areas that proved harder to reach in the aftermath of the storm.

These problems contributed to vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, not being able to receive medical treatment, which GW’s researchers say led to around 3,000 dying. That is only an estimate, however, since they did not study how each individual died, although they hope to conduct that study in the future.

Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló admitted the government made mistakes handling the storm but he insisted it was not due to political considerations.

"I agree I’ve made mistakes," Rosselló said. "But I reject the notion that this was at all connected to any political consideration. My only consideration was the well-being of the Puerto Rican people."

Trump has focused his ire on San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who positioned herself as a critic of his administration in the immediate aftermath of the storms. Wednesday, Trump called her "totally incompetent" when he tweeted another defense of how the emergency was managed.