Gavin Newsom, Trump Fight over Wildfire Funding After Hostile Inaugural Address

Charlene Craig
January 10, 2019

Mr. Trump sparked alarm among Californians by tweeting that he had ordered FEMA to withhold emergency-relief funding presumably related to the state's disastrous November wildfires, led by the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise.

Amid a partial government shutdown that is headed into its third week with no end in sight, President Trump threatened to cut off federal funding for California - now recovering from its deadliest wildfire in history.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fired back stating the president's statement "insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires past year & thousands more who lost their homes".

"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", LaMalfa said of Trump's earlier tweet. "It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!" he tweeted.

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But on Monday, the detente was over, as Newsom - likely seeking a bolder national political profile - cast himself as the anti-Trump.

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The people familiar with the meeting insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly. Pelosi warned that the effects of hundreds of thousands of lost paychecks would begin to ripple across the economy.

Trump's tweet came a day after California Governor Gavin Newsom was sworn in. "The people of CA - folks in Paradise - should not be victims to partisan bickering".

More than half of California's forests are managed by the federal government, and the letter noted the U.S. Forest Service's budget has steadily decreased since 2016. "Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!" he tweeted during the Camp Fire, which killed 86 people, burned 153,000 acres of land and destroyed almost 14,000 homes.

The congressman then tried to direct Trump's attention to the people in his strongly Republican district who have been hurt by the fires. The agency has so far not responded to news media requests for comment.

"The President has seen first-hand our fire-ravaged areas in Northern California", LaMalfa added.

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.

President Trump claimed California's deadly wildfires "would never happen" with "proper Forest Management".

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Newsom noted that California has pledged $1 billion over the next five years to ramp up its efforts, which include clearing dead trees that can serve as fuel.

Newsom, also a Democrat, said at his swearing-in ceremony this week that the Trump administration is "hostile to California's values".

"We have been put in office by the voters to get things done", Newsom tweeted, "not to play games with lives". The two met when Trump visited Paradise a few days after the fire.

Mr Trump's threat to withhold Federal Emergency Management Agency funds from recent wildfire survivors drew a swift rebuke from California Senator Kamala Harris.

And the federal government owns far more California land than the state government at which Trump keeps spitting contempt and threats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, in her own tweet, called on Republicans to condemn Trump and get him to reassure Californians needed assistance.

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The temporary ceasefire came after the two sides imposed import duties on more than US$300 billion of each other's goods. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that sanctions should be enforced "vigorously and without fail".

The state has requested an additional $9 billion from the federal government for wildfire relief, but it's unclear how much of that money would go through FEMA.

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