WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday again threatened to cut off federal funds to fight California wildfires, saying the money is being wasted.
“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen,” Trump tweeted. “Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded that Trump’s threat “insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year & thousands more who lost their homes.”
Pelosi’s tweet said House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, another Californian, “must join me to condemn & call on POTUS to reassure millions in CA that our govt will be there for them in their time of need.”
Trump has threatened before to order the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cut off money for California fires, but the administration has not published an order.
Critics on Twitter questioned whether Trump could legally withhold FEMA money that has been appropriated.
State officials accused Trump of playing politics with the California wildfires and said he does not understand the issues involved in fighting fires. They questioned whether Trump is going after California because it is a Democratic state.
Brian Rice, president of the California Professional Firefighters, cited the damage in and around Paradise, California, and said the people there “have only begun to be able to rebuild their lives. … Now, they find themselves being used as pawns in the president’s ill-informed chest-pounding at their expense.”
Rice said Trump is wrong to blame the fires on state forest management.
“While forest health can be a contributing factor in large fires,” he noted, “more than 60 percent of these forests are controlled by the federal government, not California.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has criticized Trump over firefighting policy, tweeted after the president’s shutdown speech Tuesday that “Trump’s go-to is governing by fear and division.”
Tuesday, the newly inaugurated Newsom proposed $105 million in new spending to prevent, fight and escape wildfires in the wake of one of the state’s worst fire seasons.
Trump has declared policy decisions only to change or modify them days later. Examples include the slowed-down withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.