White House defends Pres. Trump on Puerto Rico death toll claim

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In Florida, which was badly hit by Hurricane Irma past year 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.

Building on comments he made earlier in the week in which he said "3,000 people did not die", the President on Saturday said the number appeared "like magic" and there was "no way" it could be accurate.

"To be tweeting about 3,000 people.it's actually disrespectful for my country", said Cora (via ESPN), a Puerto Rico native whose family was on the island as the storm hit.

"The water was kept in an area that was pretty hard hit during the storm and could have used all the water they could have gotten", Begnaud said in a video report. "As time went by it did not go up by much", he says, with zero evidence. If you're suggesting that every person who gets sick and dies months after a storm comes through because the infrastructure is inadequate, or medical supplies aren't available, or because they were bitten by a dog who might have been too hungry because he lost his owners in the storm, are directly attributable to the hurricane, then...

In this week's fact-checking video, CNN's Jake Tapper dissects the president's false tweets about the death toll in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria.

President Donald Trump tosses paper towels into a crowd in Puerto Rico previous year following Hurricane Maria.

Breaking from presidential tradition, Trump continued to use the Category 4 hurricane barreling toward the coast as an occasion to high-five himself for his administration's response to the hurricane that slammed Puerto Rico last season.

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"This is what denial following neglect looks like", declared San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz in response to Trump's tweets. "May God bless the souls of the almost 3,000 Americans that died in Puerto Rico and may he take pity on your soul Mr President".

Largely due to decades of neglect and years of fiscal crisis, the Puerto Rican electrical grid collapsed into the United States' longest-ever blackout after Maria hit on September 20, 2017. "We are going to return those waters", he said.

While Trump battles the media over his response to Maria, FEMA is briefing Americans on what to expect from Hurricane Florence.

Trump has particularly been irritated by video footage of him throwing rolls of paper towels to a crowd of relief workers on the island, according to The Washington Post. "We all need to stop the blame game & focus on recovery, helping those still hurting & fixing the mistakes". That's a number that came out of Puerto Rico's government after it commissioned a study by George Washington University. The university issued a statement Thursday, saying it stood by that study.

Flattened homes on the island of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

The president defended the federal government's "fantastic job" in Puerto Rico.

The death toll from Maria, the most powerful storm to hit there in nearly a century, was raised last month from 64, a number widely discounted as far too low, to 2,975.

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