Trump Gets Backlash for Threatening to Withhold Aid from Wildfire Victims

Published on January 9, 2019 by Athena Pallas

Withholding funding is a theme with President Trump these days, and this morning he expanded that to say he had ordered FEMA to withhold any future funding to aid California wildfire victims unless “they get their act together”, which he described as “unlikely”. As you might imagine, Trump got tremendous backlash for this threat, which is a more intense version of threats Trump made in the aftermath of last year’s deadly and damaging California wildfires. Trump’s claims at the time that forest mismanagement led to the fires and their consequences were debunked at the time, but that didn’t stop Trump from making exactly the same claims today. Trump’s tendency to blame the victims of horrendous tragedy is also a point of contention. Another issue which Trump tends to ignore is that he majority of forest land in California is owned and therefore controlled by the federal government, not the state of California. According to The Hill:

President Trump said Wednesday that he has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to withhold funding for California unless the state improves its forest management to prevent wildfires…Congressional Democrats from California quickly slammed Trump and doubted his ability to withhold FEMA funds over forest management. “It’s ridiculous. That is reprehensible. These are families who are devastated and struggling to rebuild, and it will be a long rebuilding process,” Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) told reporters. “That’s just the vindictive nature of President Trump.” Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) said “shouldn’t be tweeting what he doesn’t know about.”…Local officials and fire experts, meanwhile, have criticized Trump for ignoring the impact that climate change is having on the length and severity of fires — and denying climate change science — while giving too much credit to forest management. California passed a comprehensive law last year aimed at wildfires. Among other changes, it puts new resources into clearing out brush, dead trees and other biomass that contributes to fires. A majority of forest land in the state, however, is owned by the federal government.

One wonders at the timing of Trump’s threat today, whether it has to do with reports yesterday about the costs of the 2018 California wildfires or if perhaps he is in an agitated and angry state of mind because he has not so far gotten the funding he wants for his wall, and is lashing out in other directions as a result. If that is a contributing factor, it would be consistent with Trump’s previously exhibited lack of self control and mercurial temperament. Trump this morning tweeted, “Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest 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!.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump’s threat, tweeting, “.’s threat insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year & thousands more who lost their homes. 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.”

Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) responded that Trump’s tweet was “factually incorrect” and that Trump’s lack of awareness regarding his lack of knowledge, and his unwillingness to listen to scientists and experts, is his “biggest flaw”, writing, “This is a factually incorrect threat to citizens in California. The President has a responsibility to consult science and experts. His biggest flaw is not being aware of what he doesn’t know.”

Responses from people not in Congress to Trump’s tweet showed similar sentiments. As this person wrote, “1. The fires started on federal land. 2. You, as the chief executive, are responsible for that land. 3. You cut funding from the agency responsible for that land. 4. CA is a donor state. 5. You are a terrorist. Stop holding Americans hostage over money. This is a disgrace.” The also accused Trump of mistreating California because it is a blue state, writing, “It’s beyond evident you send federal money to states based on the political ideology of their constituents. If you cannot be the president for all Americans, it’s time you step down from office.”

Threats. Bullying. Intimidation. Blaming the victims. Ignoring evidence disputing his claims so that he continues to cling to claims that have been disproven. Trump apparently doesn’t get that such a person does not then have the standing to turn around and describe the “right” thing to do, as he attempted to do regarding his border wall wish in his address last night. That disconnect is lost on Trump, but it is not lost on most of the people in this country.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.