Trump claims Hurricane Maria death toll rose ‘like magic’

Stacks upon stacks of bottled water sit near a runway in Ceiba Puerto Rico

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In recent days, Trump publicly lauded his own administration's response to Maria and privately groused over storm-related news coverage that he saw as overly focused on Puerto Rico, according to two Republican advisers close to the White House who weren't authorized to speak publicly and talked to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

The travel situation has been a point of tension between Long and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen - and she even confronted him about the issue at a meeting in late August, the report said. A Harvard study estimates the death toll might be as high as 4,645 people. But Trump, whose efforts to help the island territory recover have been persistently criticized, was having none of that.

The president raised eyebrows Tuesday when he touted the response efforts in a meeting to go over preparations for the potentially devastating Hurricane Florence inching toward the Carolinas.

"They say all these people died in the storm in Puerto Rico, yet 70% of power was out before the storm".

"I have an uncle who committed suicide because of the hurricane that happened", said Santos-Vasquez.

"I think that's too generous", Hostin shot back.

Before the government-commissioned GWU study, many independent investigations also found the Hurricane Maria death toll to be in the thousands.

"Those are just the facts of what happens when a disgusting hurricane hits an isolated place like an island", Ryan said when asked about Trump's tweet.

"If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them on to the list", he tweeted.

In this November 15, 2017 photo, some roofs damaged by Hurricane Maria have awnings installed in El Gandúl neighborhood, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In Florida, which was badly hit by Hurricane Irma a year ago and which received thousands of Puerto Ricans fleeing the devastation of their homes, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis - who has built his campaign around his adherence to Trump's politics - tried to distance himself from the president's words.

At the same briefing, he also referred to Florence multiple times as "Hurricane Floyd" - a storm that devastated parts of the East Coast in 1999, causing 87 deaths.

One of those joining Pelosi was Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress. "But we will be there, and it's just a matter of time", Cora said.

The team, which worked independently of the Puerto Rican government, looked at death certificates, spoke to funeral home directors and interviewed doctors, health officials, hospital directors and forensic pathologists to reach their conclusion.

"This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch".

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