Capitol Alert

‘This Twitter war ... is not helpful:’ California leaders blast Trump’s FEMA threat

State and federal governments should cooperate on fighting wildfires, says Gov. Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, that he’ll ask the Legislature to spend $105 million on containing wildfires. He also reached out to President Donald Trump on fire safety.
Up Next
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, that he’ll ask the Legislature to spend $105 million on containing wildfires. He also reached out to President Donald Trump on fire safety.

This story has been updated to include a response from Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

California’s top politicians condemned President Donald Trump Wednesday after he threatened to withhold federal disaster relief money from the thousands of Northern California families looking to rebuild in the wake of devastating wildfires.

Wednesday’s tweet marked the latest battlefield in an ongoing political war between Trump and the State of California.

Trump’s tweeted threat — which stated he has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to “send no more money” to wildfire-ravaged California communities unless the state begins doing “proper Forest Management” — drew a swift and critical response.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gavin Newsom were among the Democrats who condemned Trump’s tweet.

Newsom, who just Tuesday praised Trump for not playing politics with California wildfire victims, tweeted that “disasters and recovery are no time for politics. … The people of CA — folks in Paradise — should not be victims to partisan bickering.”

Feinstein called Trump’s tweet an “empty threat” that “candidly isn’t worth the time of day,” while Harris — rumored to be considering a presidential run — wrote that “we should work together to mitigate these fires by combating climate change, not play politics by threatening to withhold money from survivors of a deadly natural disaster.”

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, newly sworn in as two-time Speaker of the House, said Trump’s threat “insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year.”

The Camp Fire in November leveled the town of Paradise and killed 86 people, making it California’s deadliest wildfire.

While the majority of the condemnation of Trump’s remarks came from the left, at least one California Republican congressman, Rep. Doug La Malfa, R-Oroville, whose district includes Camp Fire-devastated Butte County, tweeted a statement that Trump’s “threats to FEMA funding are not helpful and will not solve the longer term forest management regulatory problems.”

La Malfa wrote that Trump “made the promise to help, and I expect him to keep it.”

Two more California Republicans who represent districts affected by the Camp Fire in the California Legislature similarly criticized Trump’s message.

“This Twitter war ... is not helpful,” wrote Republicans Sen. Jim Nielsen of Tehama and Assemblyman James Gallagher of Yuba City.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, the House Minority Leader and a prominent Trump supporter, said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon that “the president’s message shows clear frustration about an important issue that has not been resolved — how we deal with addressing wildfires in California going forward so that more lives aren’t at risk.”

McCarthy added that “we are all frustrated with the lack of proper forest management that could mitigate the damage our communities have experienced and will certainly experience in the future.”

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.