Top Dem: Trump claim about Puerto Rico death toll 'disgusting'

Top Dem: Trump claim about Puerto Rico death toll 'disgusting'
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), blasted President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE on Thursday for claiming without evidence that Democrats inflated the death toll in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria to make him look bad.

"The notion that the president is suggesting that anyone would alter numbers, because he’s concerned about his ego, it’s just disgusting," Luján told reporters.

"The notion that an executive would turn a blind eye to the number of people who lost their lives…I don’t have another word for it," he continued. "It’s as blatant a failure that could come from an executive. And it’s really a shame that the president is going to this level."

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Luján joined a growing chorus of Democrats, Puerto Rican officials and some Republicans who have condemned or disagreed with Trump's comments earlier Thursday in which he cast doubt on a study that found nearly 3,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico last year.

"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 tweeted. "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."

He went on to claim that Democrats were responsible for the increased death toll as part of a plot to make him look "as bad as possible."

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

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz called Trump “delusional, paranoid and unhinged from any sense of reality" over the comments, while Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló called on Trump to increase federal assistance for the island.

“People are tired of seeing the catastrophe and devastation used for political purposes, whether it is a tweet or a statement,” Rosselló said in a Thursday interview with CBS News. “They really want to get results.”

--Max Greenwood contributed