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Trump’s Threat to Cut California Wildfire Aid Sparks Bipartisan Alarm

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Trump’s Threat to Cut California Wildfire Aid Sparks Bipartisan Alarm

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in Washington, D.C., January 9, 2019. (Jim Young/REUTERS)

President Trump drew criticism from both sides of the aisle Wednesday after he announced on Twitter that he has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cut off disaster-aid funds to California “unless they get their act together, which is unlikely.”

Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. 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!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019

Trump’s tweet reiterated a complaint he has voiced before about what he sees as the state’s lackluster disaster-response operations and penchant for wasting federal funds. But the new Democratic governor of California, Gavin Newsom, who was sworn in two days ago, shot back, saying Californians should not be the “victims” of the president’s desire to “play games with lives.”

Disasters and recovery are no time for politics. I’m already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses.

The people of CA — folks in Paradise — should not be victims to partisan bickering.

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) January 9, 2019

Newly elected House speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, sent out an immediate, harsh, response to the president’s threat.

.@realDonaldTrump’s threat insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year & thousands more who lost their homes. @GOPLeader 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 https://t.co/YZJQug9zh0

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 9, 2019

California’s two Democratic senators also blasted the president.

“It’s absolutely shocking for President Trump to suggest he would deny disaster assistance to communities destroyed by wildfire,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein in a statement. “Attacking victims is yet another low for this president.”

Senator Kamala Harris said those involved “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.”

Republican politicians also were not thrilled with the prospect of cutting off disaster aid as the state recovers from the worst wildfire in its history, the Camp Fire, which raged for most of November, killing at least 86 people, injuring at least 17, and destroyed billions of dollars of property over an area of more than 153,000 acres.

“The immediate problem for fire victims is the first need, and threats to FEMA funding are not helpful and will not solve the longer term forest management regulatory problems,” said GOP representative Doug LaMalfa, although he added that he “shares the president’s great frustration” with California’s environmental regulations.

“I don’t think this is an incident that politics needs to play a part in, and I’m very disappointed at anybody that would use this as a political pawn,” said Republican town councilman Steven Crowder of Paradise, which was completely destroyed by the Camp Fire. “I’m sure I’m not alone — we lost our home, we lost our business, we lost our community — and I don’t think that anybody that’s been through that would be too supportive of that tweet.”

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