Trump tells FEMA not to send more money to California for forest fires

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE said Wednesday that he has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to withhold funding for California unless the state improves its forest management to prevent wildfires.

"Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest (sic) fires that, with proper Forrest (sic) Management, would never happen," Trump tweeted.

"Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money," he added, calling it a "disgraceful situation in lives & money."

Trump later retweeted the statement with "forest" correctly spelled. 

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FEMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of which FEMA is a part.

FEMA and DHS are currently without funding amid a partial government shutdown that has lasted 19 days and counting.

Trump has at least twice before threatened to withhold disaster funding from California for its wildfires and pressed the state to fix what he sees as major flaws with its forest management practices that cause or exacerbate fires. 

Local officials and fire experts, meanwhile, have criticized Trump for ignoring the impact that climate change is having on the length and severity of fires — and denying climate change science — while giving too much credit to forest management.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who was sworn-in on Monday, responded to Trump via Twitter, telling the president that Californians "should not be victims to partisan bickering." Newsom said he's already moved to modernize the state's forest management and emergency response practices.

"We have been put in office by the voters to get things done, not to play games with lives," he said.

California passed a comprehensive law last year aimed at wildfires. Among other changes, it puts new resources into clearing out brush, dead trees and other biomass that contributes to fires. 

A majority of forest land in the state, however, is owned by the federal government.

Wildfires ravaged the state in 2018, with the Camp Fire in Northern California killing at least 85 people and destroying thousands of buildings. The wildfire was the deadliest in the state's history and racked up an overall damage cost of $16.5 billion, according to reinsurance firm Munich Re, which on Tuesday named it the costliest disaster of 2018.

As the Camp Fire raged in November, Trump threatened to withhold federal payments to the state unless officials addressed forest management. The president ultimately issued a disaster declaration for California that freed up federal funding.

Congressional Democrats from California quickly slammed Trump and doubted his ability to withhold FEMA funds over forest management.

“It’s ridiculous. That is reprehensible. These are families who are devastated and struggling to rebuild, and it will be a long rebuilding process,” Rep. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Cruz pitches Ocasio-Cortez on bill to make birth control available over the counter To protect our health, we must act on climate MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters. “That’s just the vindictive nature of President Trump.”

Rep. Jim CostaJames (Jim) Manuel CostaBiden holds lead in 2020 endorsements House GOP secures last-minute change to gun bill Trump tells FEMA not to send more money to California for forest fires MORE (D-Calif.) said "shouldn’t be tweeting what he doesn’t know about.”

"We’re doing a hosting of new management tools for our forests that are cutting-edge," he told The Hill. "And this notion he came up with that raking forests would prevent forest fires is just nonsense.”

Costa added that Trump is unlikely to be able to pull FEMA money, saying it is "without precedent."

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris slams DOJ decision not to charge police in Eric Garner's death Harris vows to 'put people over profit' in prescription drug plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet MORE (D-Calif.), meanwhile, tweeted that federal policymakers “should work together to mitigate these fires by combating climate change, not play politics by threatening to withhold money from survivors of a deadly natural disaster.”

And Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaCongress, stop ducking war-declaration authority on Iran The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill MORE (D-Calif.) said in a tweet that Trump's biggest flaw is "not being aware of what he doesn’t know."

—Miranda Green contributed to this report, which was updated at 2:30 p.m.