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President Trump visits Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Photo: Joe Raedle via Getty Images

President Trump set off a social media firestorm Thursday after claiming, without evidence, that Democrats had inflated the Puerto Rican death toll stemming from last year's Hurricane Maria.

The big picture: The death toll estimate, the product of a George Washington University study that was commissioned by the Puerto Rican government, was a conservative one. And lawmakers were not shy about calling out the president for his baseless claim.

What they're saying:

  • San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz: "Mr. Trump, you can try and bully us with your tweets, BUT WE KNOW OUR LIVES MATTER. You will never take away our self respect. Shame on you! ... Damn it: this is NOT about politics, this was always about SAVING LIVES."
  • Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.): "You’re right, Mr. President. The Hurricane didn’t kill 3,000 people. Your botched response did."
  • Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.): "This isn’t about you and it isn’t a political game. Nearly 3,000 Americans died in Puerto Rico. We need answers not heartless attempts to duck responsibility."
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): "@realDonaldTrump prefers his 'alternative facts' to the tragedy faced by families of the lost. Worse still, the GOP is determined to shield his insulting behavior from accountability. It’s time for Republicans in Congress to get back to performing our crucial oversight function."
  • Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.): "This is what your math looks like when you count black or brown lives less than white lives."
  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.): "Your comments display an ignorance as large as the storm itself. The death toll was due to a lack of access to potable water and power, and because the nation failed to bring a sense of urgency to the relief effort commensurate with the size of the disaster — and still has."
  • Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.): "Casualties don’t make a person look bad, so I have no reason to dispute these numbers."
  • Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.): "I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed. I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I'll continue to help PR."

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.

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