President Donald Trump revived his criticism of California on Wednesday, insisting again the state has mismanaged forest management programs and allowed wildfires to rage.
Trump’s threat to withhold Federal Emergency Management Agency funds from recent wildfire survivors drew a swift rebuke from California Sen. Kamala Harris, a potential Democratic challenger to Trump for the White House in 2020, as well as the state’s other top Democrats, newly elected Gov. Gavin Newsom and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who represents the Bay Area.
When 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. State officials have also pointed out that more than half of the California’s forests are owned and managed by federal agencies.
Still, Trump has not backed off, and on Wednesday appeared to escalate his threats to withhold federal dollars if unspecified programs are not reformed.
“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest Management, would never happen,” Trump said, misspelling the word “forest” twice. He later reposted his message with the word correctly spelled.
“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!” he wrote.
In a tweet, Harris noted that Californians endured the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history last year.
“We 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,” Harris wrote on Twitter.
Newsom noted that he had joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee in writing a letter to the federal government earlier this week asking for an improved partnership in “taking on these unprecedented wildfires.”
“We have been put in office by the voters to get things done, not to play games with lives,” Newsom tweeted.
“Disasters and recovery are no time for politics,” Newsom added in a subsequent tweet. “I’m already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses. The people of CA – folks in Paradise,” a community that was among the hardest hit by the Camp Fire last year, “should not be victims to partisan bickering.”
Fire control is not Trump’s only grievance with the Golden State, which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Newsom in November. Trump has threatened in the past to halt federal support for California but has yet to follow through. That includes vowing to withdraw Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers as a punishment for some of the state’s immigration policies. He has said he’ll hold back federal dollars for fire disasters before, but has not executed on that threat.
Trump has visited the country’s most populous state only twice since becoming president, including to survey fire damage in November. That included stops in Southern California to view areas affected by the Woosley Fire, and a visit to the northern part of the state, where the Camp Fire devastated the community of Paradise. That was the deadliest and most destructive in state history.