Trump has no right to withhold emergency funds from California: Pelosi

US

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday rebuked President Donald Trump for threatening to block disaster aid for California, a state recently ravaged by deadly, destructive wildfires whose mostly Democratic political leaders often spar with the Republican president.

“How shocking it is that this president would say he’s going to withhold funding to meet the disaster needs of people in California,” said Pelosi, a Democrat representing a California district, referring to Trump’s tweet on Wednesday that he would stop the emergency funds until the state changes its forest and fire management.

“Unless you have a different definition of what a disaster is and the needs for assistance, you have no right to withhold those funds,” Pelosi said at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

It is not clear whether Trump was referring to money already approved and being distributed or to future funds in his tweet. By law he cannot act to “delay or impede” disaster relief once a federal emergency or disaster declaration has been made.

Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is currently distributing aid near the site of the Camp Fire that killed 86 people, did not respond to requests for comment about the law or the president’s tweet on Wednesday, even though some were working despite the government shutdown.

Trump’s tweet was part of an ongoing back-and-forth with the most populous U.S. state. He says California has suffered from increasingly intense wildfires over the last few years because of forest mismanagement.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Phil Berlowitz

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