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National Govt & Politics
Trump orders FEMA to block wildfire disaster aid for California
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Trump orders FEMA to block wildfire disaster aid for California

Trump orders FEMA to block wildfire disaster aid for California
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Trump orders FEMA to block wildfire disaster aid for California

Again accusing the state of California of not doing enough to prevent wildfires on forest lands, President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that he was ordering federal emergency officials not to give any more disaster relief to the Golden State to deal with damage from wildfires, drawing a swift rebuke from Democrats in the Congress.

"Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money," the President wrote in a tweet, as he characterized California's anti-wildfire efforts as 'disgraceful.'

It was not immediately apparent what pushed the President to order FEMA - which is currently under a partial government shutdown - to stop disaster aid for California, which was ravaged in 2018 by several particularly intense wildfires.

"This deserves a 5-star award for idiocy," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said of the President's tweet, while the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom chided the President on Twiter as well.

It's not the first time the President has thrown verbal barbs at California - even during wildfire events - as he has accused the state government of following 'bad environmental laws' and not properly 'raking and cleaning' forests, which he said is done successfully in Finland - a statement which drew widespread mockery from Democrats.

California officials have pointed out repeatedly to the President that the state manages just two to three percent of the forest lands in the Golden State - while the federal government is responsible for over half of those lands.

"Californians endured the deadliest wildfire in our state’s history last year," said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who said the President was wrong to "play politics by threatening to withhold money from survivors of a deadly natural disaster."

"This is absolutely shameful," said Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) of the President's announcement. "While communities like Paradise are still struggling with multi-billion dollar recovery efforts the President withholds funding for petty political gains. Where is his empathy?"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - who leads the California delegation, which is now 45 Democrats to 7 Republicans - swiftly denounced the President's threat.

The President's latest volley at the state of California comes after a disastrous mid-term election for Republicans in the Golden State, where Democrats picked up seven U.S. House seats, including a historic sweep of seats in Orange County, once the home of conservative Republicans in the state.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), whose district suffered devastating damage during the most recent Paradise fire, said he was surprised by the President's tweet, saying it came out of 'left field.'

"Cutting off money for FEMA isn't the right approach," LaMalfa told reporters, though he said he agreed with the President's desire to force change in how the state of California deals with forest management.

"If you want to cut off money, cut off money for stupid things like high speed rail," LaMalfa added.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

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Dodge County investigators have turned their case over to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office for review.  Lois Riess, who authorities nicknamed “Losing Streak Lois” for her penchant for gambling, fled south to Florida -- stopping at a casino on the way. Riess’ abandoned Cadillac Escalade, which Minnesota investigators alleged she left the state in after gunning down her husband, was found in a park in Fort Myers, Florida.  Surveillance footage from a restaurant two blocks from Hutchinson’s borrowed timeshare condo showed the victim chatting with Riess at the bar on April 5, the day authorities believe she was shot to death. Hutchinson’s body was found four days later in the bathroom of the condo.  See the footage of Lois Riess chatting with Pamela Hutchinson below, courtesy of the Fort Myers News-Press.  Investigators believe Hutchinson was killed so Riess could assume her identity. They also believe Hutchinson was shot with the same gun that killed David Riess. According to Riess’ Florida indictment, Lois Riess stole credit cards, money, jewelry, sunglasses and other property from Hutchinson after she was killed. Surveillance footage from Hutchinson’s condo complex showed Riess walking into the parking lot, getting into Hutchinson’s Acura TL and driving away.  The indictment also alleged that Riess went to a Fort Myers bank and used Hutchinson’s identification to withdraw $5,000 from the dead woman’s account before leaving town. Riess was next spotted the following day at an Ocala Hilton hotel, where she used Hutchinson’s identification to check into a room, Lee County officials said. She stayed there the nights of April 6 and 7, according to investigators.  Surveillance footage from inside and outside the hotel showed both Riess and the stolen Acura. According to the News-Press, a white straw hat Riess wore in the footage belonged to Hutchinson.  While in Ocala, Riess is accused of withdrawing another $500 from Hutchinson’s bank account.  From there, Riess is accused of making her way west across the southeastern U.S., making several stops in Louisiana -- including at another casino -- before being seen driving the Acura around Corpus Christi, Texas. She attempted to get $200 from Hutchinson’s account at a gas station, but the effort failed, the News-Press reported.  Riess used her own ID to claim a $1,500 jackpot at a Louisiana casino, the newspaper reported.  Riess remained at large until April 19, when she was arrested on South Padre Island in Texas. Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose said a man recognized Riess when she walked into a restaurant on the island, located about 25 miles from the Mexican border, and looked at a menu. Riess did not stay to eat at the restaurant, identified as Dirty Al’s Seafood, but the man called police to report the sighting. A South Padre Island police officer and a federal marshal responded to the area and spotted the white Acura that had been stolen from Hutchinson at another nearby restaurant, the Sea Ranch.  Riess was taken into custody as she sat at the bar inside, eating a meal and chatting with fellow patrons. She was subsequently extradited back to Florida to face charges in Hutchinson’s homicide.   Riess was indicted June 6 in the case, according to court records. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in Hutchinson’s slaying. 

Washington Insider

  • Frustrated by opposition on some college campuses to conservative speakers, President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order which threatens to take away federal research grant money from colleges and universities, if those schools don't guarantee First Amendment protections for those who want to speak on campus. 'We're dealing with billions and billions and billions of dollars,' President Trump said in a White House ceremony on Thursday. Flanked by conservative activists who have run afoul of protests at college and university campuses, Mr. Trump made clear that he wants new opportunities for their voices to be heard. 'Universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech,' the President added. 'This order is part of the Trump Administration’s administrative and legislative efforts to support a focus on student outcomes and improve transparency, accountability, and affordability in postsecondary education,' the White House said in a statement. The President had raised this matter earlier in the month, during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington, D.C. It was not immediately clear how the Thursday signing would change the current landscape governing money being sent to schools by the feds, as there are already requirements to uphold the First Amendment. In a morning conference call with reporters, a senior administration official refused to give any hints about how the requirement would be enforced differently going forward. 'I won't get into implementation details,' the official said, repeatedly deflecting questions in a Thursday conference call with reporters about how the plan would work.  'But schools are already supposed to be following these rules,' as the official said 'the goal of the order is to promote free speech more broadly across college campuses.' The plan drew immediate fire from the President's critics. 'President Trump’s concept of free speech is speech that he agrees with, which is, in fact, the antithesis of what the First Amendment seeks to protect,' said Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers union.