As California Burns, Trump Threatens to Cut Federal Funding

The president is tweeting nonsense about wildfires—again.

Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

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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.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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