California Gov. Gavin Newsom blasted President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency Friday and accused him of forgetting about the “real emergency” needs of survivors of the disastrous Camp Fire that destroyed most of the town of Paradise and killed 86 people.
Newsom said there are still survivors waiting for federal disaster recovery money and people are suffering. He said $12 billion in funds that Congress approved for disaster assistance for California, Texas, Georgia and elsewhere is “not moving” as needed to help out with relief efforts.
“You have a real disaster that needs to be cleaned up — $12 billion sitting there,” Newsom told reporters at a press conference in Sacramento. “And not even an utterance, not even a reference in today’s press conference [by Trump] of a real, pressing need and a real human crisis that’s manifesting in real time.”
Newsom, a Democrat, said he just returned Thursday from a visit to Paradise and saw firsthand the continued suffering of the survivors in Northern California’s Butte County. More than 10,000 homes were destroyed in the Camp Fire.
“These people are under enormous stress and anxiety,” Newsom said, adding that they include children who lost everything and are learning in makeshift classrooms. Survivors are “still waiting for FEMA support. Still waiting for disaster recovery money into their community.”
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump has previously threatened to cut off funding for wildfire relief.
As of Feb. 13, FEMA had provided over $69 million to survivors of the Camp Fire disaster as part of individual and household relief programs. The agency also has provided about $4.5 million to wildfire victims in Southern California, including the Woolsey Fire last November that destroyed 1,643 structures and killed three people.
Newsom slammed Trump for the national emergency declaration that the president is using to get billions of dollars to fund his southern border wall.
Newsom said California plans to join several other states in a lawsuit to challenge Trump’s national emergency declaration. California has already filed at least 45 lawsuits against the Trump administration on a variety of issues and secured 26 wins, although some cases are still ongoing, according to the office of state Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
“Donald Trump, we’ll see you in court,” Newsom said. “Fortunately, Donald is not the last word — the courts will be the last word.”
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney disclosed Friday that Trump intends to put together $8 billion in funds for wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border. Congress already set aside more than $1.3 billion for the Homeland Security Department in a funding bill, and other money is expected to come from the Pentagon, including $2.5 billion from the military’s fund for counter-narcotics activities. There’s also $3.6 billion expected to be taken from the military’s construction budget and $600 million in Treasury Department drug forfeiture funds.
“No other state will be more harmed than the state of California because of the magnitude of the money,” the governor said. He said there is a risk California could lose funds for counter-narcotics efforts at the border as well as for local task forces and other operations inland that target drugs.
Newsom last week said he plans to keep 100 of the 360 California National Guard troops at the border to combat drug trafficking, a deployment historically financed by the federal government. He said the emergency declaration could impact funding for the Guard deployment.
According to Newsom, the work that Guard troops and federal agencies have been doing to fight drug cartels and illicit drugs such as fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine within the state is now being put at risk for Trump’s “vanity project.”
The governor called Trump’s planned border wall “a monument to stupidity” and added that those who believe large amounts of drugs are being carried on backpacks across the border are “delusional.” Rather, he said drugs are coming through the ports of entry and vehicles, including tractor-trailers, drones, airplanes and boats.
Newsom said Trump’s border wall and the emergency action will make the drug problem worse, not better.
“The legitimate crisis with drugs in this nation can be addressed appropriately and thoughtfully,” Newsom said. “We want to work collaboratively, and we want to work in the spirit of partnership. I don’t want to be a sparring partner with President Trump.”
However, the California politician said, Trump has “made it all but impossible when he plays these games and manufactures a crisis and creates the conditions where we have no other choice than to sue the administration and join other states and join our partners in the federal government to do the same.”