President Trump has threatened to withhold federal disaster aid from California after a series of deadly wildfires devastated the state. For months, the POTUS has accused California of bringing the wildfires on itself because of poor forest management. But in a recent tweet, he took things further by threatening to halt federal aid, and this drew criticism from lawmakers in his own political party.
“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen,” Trump tweeted just one day after Western governors asked for greater federal funding for wildfire prevention.
“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!” the president wrote, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
However, this appears to an empty threat, because President Trump lacks the authority to cut funding under federal statutes. One law specifically bars the president from delaying or impeding disaster relief once there has been a disaster declaration.
The research shows that the growing rate and intensity of California wildfires is largely because of the prolonged drought in the state, which is a symptom of climate change. But the Trump administration has downplayed the role of climate change in the worsening wildfires.
The president’s recent tweet drew criticism from California’s top republicans, like Senator Jim Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher, who said in a joint statement that Trump’s threats are “wholly unacceptable.” They added that people have lost everything in the fires, and they expect the federal government to follow through on its promise to help.
In November, Trump toured the Camp Fire zone and promised to “take care of the people who have been so badly hurt.”
FEMA said that it can’t respond to questions about Trump’s order because of the partial government shutdown.
Federal agencies manage more than half of California’s 33 million acres of forest lands, with state and local agencies controlling only 3 percent. The rest of the forest lands are privately owned.
Image via Peter Buschmann