President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE has been privately criticizing Florida GOP gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisGOP tentatively decides on Jacksonville for site of convention DeSantis pushing to host Republican National Convention in Florida Florida bars and theaters to reopen starting Friday, DeSantis says MORE and accusing him of disloyalty, Politico reported Tuesday, after the former congressman publicly broke with him over the official death toll in Puerto Rico.
The president has been a staunch supporter of DeSantis since he launched his gubernatorial run, campaigning with him in Florida and repeatedly praising him on Twitter. Citing “people familiar with the president’s thinking,” Politico reported that Trump views DeSantis as “politically indebted to him.”
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DeSantis, who stepped down from his congressional seat earlier this month to focus on the campaign, closely aligned his campaign with Trump. But after the president publicly disputed the death toll from 2017’s Puerto Rico hurricanes — which has risen to nearly 3,000 — and accused Democrats of falsely inflating the numbers, DeSantis joined a number of other lawmakers in taking a stand against Trump’s comments.
“Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life,” his campaign said in a statement. “He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated.”
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Trump tweeted at the time. “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.”
“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 added. “If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list.”
Trump has reportedly privately lashed out about DeSantis since the comments, with one Politico source describing the situation as a “divorce.”
DeSantis is locked in a tight race to succeed term-limited Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) leads DeSantis by less than 4 points, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls.
DeSantis’s campaign issued a statement to Politico that did not address whether his comments created tension between him and the president.
“Ron DeSantis knows first-hand that President Trump honored all requests for Hurricane Maria relief and it is sad, though predictable, that Democrats are wrongly politicizing this issue and that the media is constantly trying to drive a wedge between the president and members of his own party,” the campaign said. “As governor, Ron will continue to work with the president through his reelection and second term to accomplish great things for Florida.”
A White House spokesman did not return Politico’s request for comment.