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Dem on Trump praising Puerto Rico response: 'God only knows what he would think a failure would be'

Updated 8:10 PM ET, Tue September 11, 2018

(CNN) - Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia said that if President Donald Trump thinks his administration's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was a success, "God only knows what he would think a failure would be."

During an Oval Office briefing Tuesday on Hurricane Florence, Trump called his administration's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico "an incredible, unsung success," despite the estimated death toll of just under 3,000.

Earlier this month, the governor of Puerto Rico formally raised the death toll from the 2017 storm to an estimated 2,975 from 64 following a study conducted by researchers at George Washington University.

Connolly said Puerto Rico was prostrate for the better part of a year, "most of its power out for months and months and months, homes destroyed, roads washed away." People had trouble with access to health care and basic necessities like food and water, he said.

"If he thinks that's an unparalleled success, God only knows what he would think a failure would be," Connolly said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

Connolly called the President's characterization of the federal response to Maria "monstrous fiction that costs lives."

"If the head of the government doesn't see anything wrong with the response, lives get lost," the Virginia representative said.

Hurricane Florence is barreling toward the Atlantic Coast and is projected to strengthen to near Category 5 status as it approaches warm coastal waters.

Connolly's state is in the path of the storm, and coastal residents in North Carolina and South Carolina have also been told to seek safer ground away from flooding. Mandatory evacuations are underway in several cities.

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