As happens often, congressional Republicans were blindsided Thursday morning by a tweet, as President Donald Trump challenged without evidence the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico from last year's Hurricane Maria.
Researchers at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health, commissioned by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, in a report last month estimated there were 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico from September 2017 through February 2018 stemming from last year's hurricane. But that toll should have at least another 1,000 added to it because that's the number of people who died due to debris exposure. "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths", Trump wrote.
Trump's tweet came as Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolina coast.
Hurricane Florence Zeroes In On Carolinas, Bringing 130 MPH Winds
The mayor of a SC city in the path of powerful Hurricane Florence is warning citizens to get out or stay "at your own peril". I know that North Carolinians are a hardy bunch and we've seen nor'easters and hurricanes before, but this one is different.
"This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch. Your lack of respect is appalling!".
The official death toll has been contested since the hurricane struck in the fall of 2017.
Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora wasn't a big fan of President Donald Trump's comments Thursday about Puerto Rico. That is only an estimate, however, since they did not study how each individual died, although they hope to conduct that study in the future.
Maps: Here’s where flooding from Florence could be the worst
Hurricane and storm surge warnings are in place from South Santee River, South Carolina , to Duck, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence is at the doorstep of North and SC , and she's not going away anytime soon.
"That's the official death toll, you lunatic!" In seeking to assure Americans that his government is prepared for the storm, Trump has also tried to defend his administration's response to Hurricane Maria, calling it an "unsung success". A US territory since 1898, Puerto Rico's inhabitants are citizens, though they can not vote in presidential elections and have only one congressional representative with limited voting powers.
Katie Pavlich said there can be valid questions about how death tolls are determined and whether the federal or local government is more responsible, but that's an argument for another time. He also said he thought Trump "sees every attack on him as sort of undercutting his legitimacy".
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has repeatedly attacked President Donald Trump over the USA government's response in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, even as 12 million bottles of water were discovered this week rotting on an airport runway in Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Florence Rocks Wooden Pier in Nags Head
President Trump has declared an emergency in the three states and says the government is " as ready as anybody has ever been ". Flights from Fort Lauderdale to Greer, South Carolina, Richmond and Washington also are on schedule.
"He's talking about the one a year ago, because he's been tweeting a lot about what a great job he did responding to Hurricane Maria, that decimated Puerto Rico last year", Colbert said.