Monday September 24th, 2018 11:36AM

The Latest: Dems go after Trump for disputing PR death toll

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump's claim that 3,000 people did not die because of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year (all times local):

2:35 p.m.

Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia says that if Democrats win back the House they will investigate the "failures of FEMA and the response of the administration" after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Connolly says Democrats would have subpoena power to compel testimony if necessary.

Connolly is a senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He was reacting to President Donald Trump's tweets that dispute the projected death toll from Hurricane Maria last year.

Researchers at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University determined about 3,000 people died. Trump claims, without evidence, that the total is wrong.

Connolly says that in light of Hurricane Florence reaching the Carolinas, the president should be focused on marshalling all resources to respond to a potential catastrophic storm.

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2:05 p.m.

Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida says President Donald Trump "dishonors the living and the dead" with his baseless claim that 3,000 people did not die in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria and its aftermath.

She says Trump's presidency is "the theater of the absurd every day."

Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring from Congress after 13 terms says people in the White House need to tell him that "the emperor has no clothes occasionally."

Another Florida Republican, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, also criticized Trump for saying the federal response to Hurricane Maria was one of the best in history. Curbelo said he sees no basis for that claim.

Trump on Thursday rejected the official death toll in Puerto Rico from the September 2017 storm, tweeting "3000 people did not die." An independent study accepted by Puerto Rico officials concluded that 2,975 people died from the storm and its aftermath.

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1:35 p.m.

George Washington University researchers are standing by their study that found the death toll following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was 2,975, considerably higher than first thought.

The statement Thursday is in response to President Donald Trump's tweet rejecting the study's conclusion. Trump argued without evidence that the number was wrong and falsely called it a plot by Democrats to make him "look as bad as possible."

The statement from the Milken Institute School of Public Health said the study was commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico and was carried out "with complete independence and freedom from any kind of interference."

They say their assessment is the most "accurate and unbiased" assessment of mortality following the storm.

Trump's comments came as Hurricane Florence, a potentially catastrophic storm, headed for the Carolina coast.

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11:40 a.m.

Democratic Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez says President Donald Trump is "dead wrong" when he claims 3,000 people didn't die from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year and when he claims the federal government's response was a success.

Trump on Thursday tweeted "3,000 people did not die" in Puerto Rico and called the death count a move by Democrats to make him look bad.

Gutierrez says, "Even though the president dropped the ball he is now doing a victory dance in the end zone. Or should we call it the dead zone?"

The mayor of Puerto Rico's capital calls Trump "delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality."

Trump's tweets came as the Carolinas braced for Hurricane Florence, which could drench the homes of up to 10 million people.

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11:20 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is rejecting President Donald Trump's assertion an official government death toll for last year's hurricane in Puerto Rico is wrong.

The Wisconsin Republican says he has "no reason to dispute" a study that found nearly 3,000 people on the island died from Hurricane Maria last year.

Trump on Thursday tweeted "3,000 people did not die" in Puerto Rico and called the death count a move by Democrats to make him look bad.

Ryan denies the figure reflects poorly on Trump, saying, "casualties don't make a person look bad."

Trump's tweets came as the Carolinas braced for Hurricane Florence, which could drench the homes of up to 10 million people.

The mayor of Puerto Rico's capital says Trump is "delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality."

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11 a.m.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello says in a Facebook video post in Spanish that there should no more questions about the number of deaths from Hurricane Maria and the process used to arrive at that number.

He says, "the victims of Puerto Rico, and the people of Puerto Rico in general, do not deserve to be questioned about their pain." Rossello says, "It's not a time to fight, to have political noise, to use these things for the benefit of one party or another. It is time to remember all those who lost their lives. It is time to acknowledge their pain and the sacrifice that everyone has made in the name of recovery."

Rossello says he accepted as the official death toll an independent analysis that nearly 3,000 died in Puerto Rico from the September 2017 storm. He says the process was "carried out properly."

Trump on Thursday rejected that figure, arguing without evidence that the number was wrong and calling it a plot by Democrats to make him "look as bad as possible."

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10:30 a.m.

The mayor of Puerto Rico's capital says President Donald Trump is "delusional" for rejecting the official conclusion 2,975 people died on the island because of Hurricane Maria.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz fired off several tweets targeting Trump after Trump said "3,000 people did not die" and called the death count a move by Democrats to make him look bad.

Cruz tweeted Thursday, "Simply put: delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality. Trump is so vain he thinks this is about him. NO IT IS NOT." She also tweeted, "Damn it: this is NOT about politics this was always about SAVING LIVES."

The feud between Cruz and Trump goes back to when the Category 4 storm hit last Sept. 20. Cruz maintains the federal government's response was slow and inadequate. Trump says it was a success.

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9:05 a.m.

President Donald Trump is rejecting the widely accepted death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, claiming without citing evidence that "3,000 people did not die." Trump called the count a move by Democrats to make him look bad.

Trump tweeted Thursday as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas. He 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..."

Puerto Rico's governor raised the U.S. territory's official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975 after an independent study found the number of people who succumbed in the aftermath had been severely undercounted.

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