U.S. President Donald Trump can not withhold disaster relief once an emergency has been declared, federal statutes show, despite the Republican's tweet on Wednesday that he had ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cease helping victims of last year's California wildfires.
Amid a partial government shutdown that is headed into its third week with no end in sight, President Trump threatened to cut off federal funding for California - now recovering from its deadliest wildfire in history. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!
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"Disasters and recovery are no time for politics. The people of CA - folks in Paradise - should not be victims to partisan bickering". "And yet, the federal government has cut $2 billion from the US Forest Service even as California has spent more on forest management".
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been providing millions of dollars in disaster aid to wildfire survivors, including in and around Paradise, California, where 86 people died in this fall's Camp Fire.
FEMA has disbursed almost $56 million to Camp Fire survivors and has been working with state officials on plans to remove debris from Paradise, which was virtually destroyed by the fire. But Trump has repeatedly charged that California is to blame for the severe wildfires that have devastated the state in recent years. He added that cutting FEMA's funding to CalFire "would damage the one governmental agency that actually works" in the state of California.
"The President has seen first-hand our fire-ravaged areas in Northern California", LaMalfa added.
When Mr Trump has made that argument in the past, firefighters across the nation chided him for misunderstanding the issue and fire experts in the state have deemed his claims false.
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But I know that the president has the authority to do it in certain situations if it's declared essential to national security. The people familiar with the meeting insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly.
President Trump claimed California's deadly wildfires "would never happen" with "proper Forest Management".
Newsom announced plans for a five-year, $1 billion forest management plan in his next budget. A Democratic strategist who previously worked for Newsom also weighed in, quipping to Politico that Trump should be more concerned about the "dumpster fire that is his administration".
"We have been put in office by the voters to get things done, not to play games with lives", the state's new Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a tweet directed at the president. The two met when Trump visited Paradise a few days after the fire.
Whether Mr. Trump can legally withdraw FEMA funding was unclear.
He also argued that federal environmental laws are to blame and suggested, "Until the federal government acts to reform its own laws, it has no excuse for withholding funds from California for following the same policies".
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, in her own tweet, called on Republicans to condemn Trump and get him to reassure Californians needed assistance. He also announced a partnership with the governors of OR and Washington, two other fire-prone states.
Calls and emails to the White House and FEMA yielded no answers, with an automated response at the disaster agency citing the partial government shutdown now in its 19th day, an impasse provoked by Trump's demand for money to build a southern border wall.