Trump denies official estimates of Hurricane Maria deaths in Puerto Rico: '3000 people did not die'
President Donald Trump speaks on the White House lawn (Screen cap).

President Donald Trump on Thursday issued a denial that 3,000 people in Puerto Rico died as a result of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico," Trump wrote on Twitter. "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..."

The president went on to accuse the Democratic Party of fabricating higher death toll numbers in an effort to hurt him politically.

"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," he wrote. "If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!"

The Puerto Rican government, after conducting a study with researchers at George Washington University, significantly revised its estimates of deaths related to Hurricane Maria upward over the summer. Although they initially said that just 64 people died from the hurricane, a more thorough examination led them to estimate that nearly 3,000 people died.

The Trump administration's response to Hurricane Maria has been widely criticized, as it took several weeks after the hurricane hit to ensure that all Puerto Ricans had access to safe drinking water -- and several months to restore electricity to the entire island.