President Donald Trump on Monday praised his administration’s response to the wildfires that have killed more than 40 people dead and displaced tens of thousands of people.
“We have FEMA there. We have military there. We have first responders there,” he said. “It’s a tragic situation. We are working very closely from the representatives from California and we’re doing a good job. ”
Trump, who boasted that former FEMA Director James Lee Witt gave his administration a top grade on its response to the hurricanes despite withering criticism from Puerto Rican residents, denied that he was ignoring California and said Witt could have easily included wildfire response in his critique. “James Lee Witt gave us an A+,” he said.
Trump said he was “honored” by the comments from Witt, who worked for former Democratic President Bill Clinton. “I just want to thank Mr. Witt, wherever you may be now, wherever you may be listening,” he said. “I just want to say I really much appreciate, because that took it out of politics, out of the world of politics, in that he was with the Clinton administration, and I'm sure remains loyal to the Clinton administration.”
During an impromptu Rose Garden news conference, Trump said he had spoken to Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown and that federal officials were on the ground in the Northern California, where fires have also devastated California wine country.
Earlier, during a Cabinet meeting, Trump the state had seen “a lot of progress in the past couple of days.”
On Sunday, the wildfires showed signs of easing off. More than 25,000 people were allowed to return home and containment grew at most of the major fires. But hundreds of people are still missing as more than 10,000 firefighters battled blazes on Monday.
“It’s very sad to watch how fast, how rapidly they move and how people are caught in their houses. I mean, it’s an incredible thing. Caught in their houses,” Trump said.
The administration issued a disaster declaration in the state but the president, himself, had said very little about the wildfires.
“We mourn the terrible loss of life. We have FEMA and first responders there. We have our military helping,” Trump said. “But we’re a little subject to winds and what happens with nature. But it’s been a very sad thing to watch.”