Trump stands by tweets questioning Puerto Rico death toll: 'NO WAY'

Trump stands by tweets questioning Puerto Rico death toll: 'NO WAY'
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE on Friday night doubled down in questioning the nearly 3,000-person death toll in Puerto Rico after a pair of hurricanes pummeled the island last year.

Trump sent two tweets casting doubt on the estimate reached by researchers at George Washington University (GWU) earlier this year. Researchers issued a statement earlier this week standing by their study after Trump initially questioned the results.

The president continued to cast doubt on the findings late Friday, writing on Twitter that he was told shortly after the storm hit last fall that 16 people had died from Hurricane Maria before the death toll was updated months later to 64.

"Then, like magic, '3000 PEOPLE KILLED,' " Trump wrote.

The president questioned how GWU researchers reached their estimate that 2,975 people died in the months following the storm.

"FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER - NO WAY!" he tweeted.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló pushed back on Trump's latest tweets Friday night while offering to walk the president through the process used by researchers to determine the death toll.
 
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"There is no reason to underscore the tragedy we have suffered in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria," he tweeted. "In the meantime, I hope you consider sending a message of support to show you stand with all of the US Citizens in Puerto Rico that lost loved ones. It would certainly be an act of respect and empathy."
 
Rosselló last month updated the government's official death toll for Hurricane Maria to match the results of the study commissioned from GWU.
 
The study reached its figure by comparing estimates of typical nondisaster death rates over six months to the actual mortality rate in Puerto Rico six months after the storm.
 
"We stand by the science underlying our study which found there were an estimated 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria," GWU's Milken Institute School of Public Health said in a statement this week. "We are confident that the number — 2,975 — is the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date."
 
Trump first disputed the updated 2,975 figure Thursday, claiming without evidence that it was the work of Democrats trying to make him look bad.

“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. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” he tweeted Thursday.

Trump faced widespread criticism for the remarks from Democrats and Republicans alike.

"How stupid, how tone deaf, how surreal, how insensitive, how offensive," Trump critic and GOP strategist Ana Navarro said on CNN. "Just, you know, how wrong in every single way."

Even Trump allies Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is running for Senate in Florida, and former Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Florida GOP governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs from Canada DeSantis formally asks Trump to base Space Command in Florida MORE (R), who is running for Florida governor, disagreed with the president’s claims.

Trump also got in hot water this week for saying the federal response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico was an “unsung success” despite the high death toll, which surpassed that of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Trump simply does not get it. Thus his neglect towards Puerto Rico cost about 3,000 lives. Unfortunately, it seems he will never get it,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz responded on Twitter.

Updated: Sept. 15 at 12:08 a.m.