In January, just a few short months after a series of disastrous wildfires ravaged California, President Trump announced that he had directed FEMA to cut off federal emergency funding unless the state got its “act together,” whatever that means.
The threat was an absurd, vindictive, and ill-informed attempt to redirect criticism from the administration’s disastrous environmental policies, which are exacerbating climate change and contributing to California’s rapid self-immolation. But now, per a BuzzFeed report published today, we know that, like so many of the president’s other proclamations, this threat was utterly empty. Trump never ordered FEMA to cut off the funds.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which helps survivors of national disasters recover, told BuzzFeed News for the first time that Trump never issued an order to stop sending money to California.
“We never got any such directive,” Brandi Richard, a FEMA spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News. “That’s evidenced by the fact that work is still being done and we continue to support wildfire survivors across the state.”
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, further confirmed the news in a Freedom of Information Act request filed Jan. 9 on Muckrock, the same day the president tweeted his order.
“We conducted a comprehensive search of files,” FEMA said in a letter. “Unfortunately, we were unable to locate or identify any responsive records.”
It worked, of course. Trump got a news cycle of reporters being forced to debunk his ludicrous claims of “forest management,” and responding to his threats to fuck over families who had literally just lost everything. The fact that his threat was empty is undeniably positive — FEMA continues to provide support to those families, many of whom still need it months after the fires—but it still sets a horrible precedent for what will happen the next time California burns.