Nearly one month after fires started to rage across California, President Trump will travel to the state on Monday for a briefing with emergency response officials. The visit comes amid intense criticism over Trump’s near-total silence over the catastrophic fires that have consumed whole communities on the west coast, killing at least 19 people in California and 10 in Oregon, with dozens still missing.
The president’s first public statement of support came in a tweet on Friday, in which he thanked firefighters and first responders and appeared to suggest that he had taken action to alleviate the situation. “I have approved 37 Stafford Act Declarations,” he tweeted, referring to a federal law that allows funding assistance for natural disasters, “including Fire Management Grants to support their brave work.” But it was difficult to square that show of support with Trump’s remarks last month, when he appeared to threaten to withhold emergency funds for the state because he believed the fires had been California’s fault. “I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania. “There are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up.”
He added, “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”
In the three weeks since those remarks—a time period that has seen devastating loss to a state already grappling with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic—Trump has been occupied with everything but the wildfires. Instead, he has spent his days relentlessly attacking his political opponents and fighting off controversies sparked by his own remarks, including his lies about the pandemic and his alleged disparaging of American soldiers who died in combat. By his own admission, the president has also been consumed by television.
In a press conference on Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom condemned Trump for his record on climate change and policies to roll back critical environmental protections. Trump is all but certain to continue his recent efforts to greenwash that record as he heads to California tomorrow. Here are reminders from my colleagues of Trump’s longstanding climate denial and plans to gut environmental rules.