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Can Trump withhold FEMA money from California?

Kate Irby, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump Tuesday tweeted a threat to cut off funding to help victims of California wildfires.

Can Trump do it? The answer is complicated.

Trump's idea was blasted by Democrats as a callous, empty threat and even California Republicans released statements saying it was the wrong approach to the problem of forest management.

A look at how all this could unfold:

Question: Can Trump withhold FEMA funds from California?

Answer: Trump already declared a national emergency in the aftermath of the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. Current law states that where there is a disaster declaration, the president cannot "delay or impede the rapid deployment, use, and distribution of critical resources to victims of an emergency."

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That would mean he cannot order FEMA to stop sending money when a disaster has already been declared.

However, Trump does have unilateral power to make a disaster declaration when a governor requests it. Those declarations mean victims of the disaster are eligible to receive federal money to help with the aftermath. Trump could start refusing to make disaster declarations for California wildfires.

A governor can appeal a denial, but the appeal also goes to the president.

Q: Has a president ever threatened to cut off FEMA funding to a state before?

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