Hurricane Florence: Trump Moved $10M From FEMA to ICE

Sen. Jeff Merkley D-Ore. questions Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing Thursday

FEMA Says It’s Ready for Hurricane Florence, Defends 2017 Response

Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, shared documents detailing the transfer on MSNBC Tuesday night, as Hurricane Florence bore down on the North and SC coasts. It details the effects the transfer would have on FEMA's operations and from where in the budget the money would come. It came in under budget for expenses including travel, training and office supplies and money was moved. "DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs", said FEMA spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton.

DHS pointed out that the money transferred from FEMA to ICE is less than 1 percent of FEMA's budget, which was originally $1.03 billion for 2018.

"Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts", Houlton said on Twitter.

It is not uncommon for cabinet-level agencies to swap money, but FEMA's budget was thrown into disarray by the number of hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters in 2017. Leahy, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said no Democrats supported the transfers.

"So I would dispute the statement that this has no bearing on addressing the challenges from hurricanes", Merkley said.

Merkley appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday night to detail his claims.

"This is a scandal", Merkley said in a statement. "When American citizens in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are still suffering from FEMA's inadequate recovery efforts-the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA".

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The report regarding their request comes as ICE faces increasing scrutiny regarding its role in Trump's "zero tolerance" policy that led to thousands of families being separated at the southern border.

Other Democratic lawmakers called the reallocation "shameful".

"ICE continues to spend at an unsustainable rate", the Senate Appropriations Committee report accompanying its proposal for Homeland Security next fiscal year says.

A senior administration official confirmed to CNN on Thursday that there is an ongoing Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigation that includes FEMA administrator Brock Long.

Merkley said of the diversion of funds "is just incredibly irresponsible".

Merkley's office provided the 39-page budget document independently to The Washington Post. "It's not surprising to see a defensive and completely fallacious response from the Trump administration to their irresponsible and risky decision to move money from FEMA", said Martina McLennan, a spokeswoman.

More than one million citizens from the Carolinas and Virginia were now under mandatory evacuations he said."We can not stress the importance to our citizens that are in evacuations to heed the local and state warnings", he said, adding, "Hurricane Florence is the strongest storm to target the Carolinas and this part of our country in decades".

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