Trump Disputes Puerto Rico Death Toll

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(NBC News) With Hurricane Florence looming off the Carolina coast, President Trump is focusing on another storm.

Mr. Trump on Twitter Thursday argued, without evidence, that 3,000 people did not die when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico last year.

The death toll, he claims without proof, was inflated by Democrats “to make me look as bad as possible.”

That prompted swift criticism from the man who led the recovery effort after Hurricane Katrina, Lt. General Russel Honore.

“I would kick him on the ankle and say ‘Look – focus on the future damn storm and stop looking in the rear view mirror!’,” Honore said.

George Washington University tallied deaths in the five months after Maria hit, finding thousands died as a result of slow and inneffective relief and recovery efforts.

“There is no reason to dispute these numbers,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said when asked about the president’s claim.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long also weighed in, saying “here is a big discrepancy between direct deaths of how people died from the wind or the water or buildings collapse versus the long term secondary or indirect deaths.”

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