As California Burns, Trump Threatens to Cut Federal Funding

The president is tweeting nonsense about wildfires—again.

Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Taking a moment from the fires burning in his own backyard, President Donald Trump went on Twitter this morning to opine on the devastating fires currently burning in California—and to threaten to cut off federal funding if his wishes aren’t followed:

The president is referring to the three major fires in Northern and Southern California. The Camp Fire, in Butte County, has killed nine people and has been the most destructive in state history. More than 200,000 people have been evacuated due to the Woolsey Fire burning in Malibu and the San Fernando Valley; the nearby Hill Fire has burned more than 6,000 acres.

Trump is correct that these fires have been massive, deadly, and costly. Otherwise he’s blowing smoke. His claim that poor forest management is responsible for killer wildfires is a favorite talking point among anti-environmentalists such as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It’s an argument for more logging, which isn’t the same thing as smart forest management, as climate scientist Peter Gleick explained to Mother Jones when Trump fired off similar tweets in August: “We do know we need to do a better job at managing forests. But I don’t think that is what he’s commenting on.”

In the midst of another spate of fires this summer, Trump tweeted that they’d been made worse by all the water “foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.” As Gleick noted at the time, “That’s completely absurd!…There’s no shortage of water to fight these fires.” 

So far, the president has not mentioned another major factor behind California’s wildfires: climate change. Climate change is making fires worse, and it is expected to make them more more frequent. Even Trump’s own Forest Service acknowledges this (without using the dread phrase “climate change”). And like several earlier California fires, the Camp Fire may have been sparked by a power line.

And as for Trump’s vague threat to cut “Fed payments,” his administration is already ahead of him. Earlier this year, it proposed slashing federal funding for studying and preventing wildfires.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate