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President Trump says he's cutting off FEMA money for California fires

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/9/2019 David Jackson
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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday again threatened to cut off federal funds to fight California wildfires, saying the money is being wasted.

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

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,  responded that Trump's threat "insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year & thousands more who lost their homes."

Pelosi said House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, another Californian, "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."

It's unclear whether Trump has already ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cut off money for California fires or is threatening to do so, as he has before. But the administration did not publish an order in any case.

Critics on Twitter questioned whether Trump could legally withhold FEMA money that already has been appropriated.

State officials have accused Trump of playing politics with the California wildfires, and said he does not understand the issues involved in fighting fires. They also questioned whether Trump is going after California because it is a Democratic state.

A group of U.S. Forest Service firefighters monitor a back fire while working to save homes during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, on November 8, 2018. © Stephen Lam A group of U.S. Forest Service firefighters monitor a back fire while working to save homes during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, on November 8, 2018. Brian Rice, president of the California Professional Firefighters, cited the damage in and around Paradise, California,  and said the people there "have only begun to be able to rebuild their lives. ... Now, they find themselves being used as pawns in the president’s ill-informed chest-pounding at their expense."

As he has before, Rice said, Trump is wrong to blame the fires on state forest management.

"While forest health can be a contributing factor in large fires," he noted, "more than 60 percent of these forests are controlled by the federal government, not California."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has criticized Trump over firefighting policy, tweeted after the president's shutdown speech on Tuesday that "Trump's go-to is governing by fear and division."

On Tuesday, the newly inaugurated Newsom proposed $105 million in new spending to prevent, fight and escape wildfires in the wake of one of the state's worst fire seasons.

Trump's declaration comes as he takes political heat over the partial government shutdown, which affects some of FEMA's operations. 

In an initial post, the president misspelled forest, writing "Forrest." He later tweeted the same message with the correct spelling, but not before the misspelling triggered mockery on social media.

Trump has been known to  declare policy decisions only to change or modify them days later. Examples include the now-slowed-down withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: President Trump says he's cutting off FEMA money for California fires

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