Donald Trump Claims Democrats Rigged Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Death Toll to Make Him Look 'Bad,' Offers No Evidence

As millions of people prepared for Hurricane Florence, which has already begun to hit the Carolinas with wind and rain, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to deny that thousands of people in Puerto Rico had lost their lives to Hurricane Maria last year.

"3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico," Trump said. "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. 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..."

Trump went on to falsely say that Democrats made up the death toll number in order to make him "look as bad as possible."

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

The president offered no evidence for his claim. The official Puerto Rican government death toll was originally 64. But a new study by George Washington University published last month estimated that nearly 3,000 people had lost their lives from hurricane-related causes after the storm, between September 2017 and February 2018. While many may not have died in the immediate aftermath, thousands of people are believed to have died during that time because of a lack of clean drinking water and no electricity.

The independent study was commissioned by Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares. Researchers analyzed death certificates and other mortality data. Using a mathematical model, the total number of deaths in the six months after Maria was compared with the expected number of deaths based on historical patterns. The numbers were adjusted for age, sex and migration that occurred from the island to the U.S. mainland following the storm.

As a result of the study, the government raised the official death toll to 2,975 people.

San Juan's mayor was quick to fire back at the president in a series of tweets, saying Trump's lack of respect for so many deaths was "appalling." She also called him "delusional, paranoid and unhinged from any sense of reality."

"This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch," Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said on Twitter. "YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!"

Cruz issued more tweets, saying the president was showing his "true colors."

"Unfortunately you just can't help it. You just can't get it," she tweeted. "Mr Trump you can try and bully us with your tweets BUT WE KNOW OUR LIVES MATTER. You will never take away our self respect. Shame on you!"

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump claimed the government's response to Hurricane Maria was an "incredible, unsung success." He said it was "one of the best jobs that was ever done. The job that FEMA and law enforcement did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico was tremendous," Trump added.

Donald Trump Claims Democrats Rigged Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Death Toll to Make Him Look 'Bad,' Offers No Evidence | U.S.