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In late night tweets Friday, President Donald J. Trump applauded the efforts of those responding to the emergency situation resulting from Hurricane Florence. He also pushed back against the criticism he’s received since suggesting that the official death toll in Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria was overinflated.

Tweet 1: Great job FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement – not easy, very dangerous, tremendous talent. America is proud of you. Keep it all going – finish strong!

Tweet 2 & 3: “When Trump visited the island territory last October, OFFICIALS told him in a briefing 16 PEOPLE had died from Maria.” The Washington Post. This was long AFTER the hurricane took place. Over many months it went to 64 PEOPLE. Then, like magic, “3000 PEOPLE KILLED.” They hired GWU Research to tell them how many people had died in Puerto Rico (how would they not know this?). This method was never done with previous hurricanes because other jurisdictions know how many people were killed. FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER – NO WAY!

From the Washington Post report Trump cited: Thursday morning on Twitter, Trump denied large-scale casualties from the Puerto Rico hurricane: “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.”

When Trump visited the island territory last October, officials told him in a briefing that 16 people had died from Maria. But Puerto Rican officials doubled the death toll to 34 later that day.

Trump’s tweet continued: “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. . . . 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. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

Late Thursday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley issued a statement in an attempt to quell outrage over the president’s tweet.

“As the President said, every death from Hurricane Maria is a horror,” he wrote, adding, “President Trump was responding to the liberal media and the San Juan Mayor who sadly, have tried to exploit the devastation by pushing out a constant stream of misinformation and false accusations.”

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