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Trump threatens to cut off disaster funding for California fires

Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump, in a tweet, said early Wednesday that he has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency not to send more disaster funding to fire-ravaged California "unless they get their act together, which is unlikely."

It was not immediately clear, however, whether Trump's threat was bluster like other tweets he has sent falsely criticizing California's fire management, or if he has actually ordered a funding cutoff to thousands of Californians trying to rebuild after the two devastating fires that hit the state late last year.

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.

The president tweeted: "Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest 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!"

He later resent the message after correcting the spelling of "forest." It was unclear what prompted Trump to write, though often he does so after seeing a report on Fox News.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on what specific actions Trump has taken, how they were legally justified and what if anything would be done to help people who are depending on FEMA for food or shelter in the wake of the wildfires.

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FEMA is running on a thin staff because of the partial government shutdown. Calls to the agency were answered by this recording: "Due to the federal funding hiatus we are not able to return voice mail messages about general press queries."

November's Camp fire, which obliterated the Northern California town of Paradise, killed 86 people and destroyed more than 13,900 homes. The Woolsey fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties left three dead and leveled about 1,500 structures.

Paradise Town Councilman Steven Crowder, a Republican, hadn't seen the president's tweet Wednesday morning, but called it "disturbing."

"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," he said. "I mean, we had the (most destructive) wildfire in California history. We lost 86 people. We lost 13,000 structures."

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