LOS ANGELES — President Trump plans to travel to California on Saturday to tour the damage and meet with those affected by the wildfires that have ravaged the state. He is expected to land at Beale Air Force Base and travel to Paradise, the town in Northern California that has been decimated by fire.
The visit will come a week after he blamed state officials for the destructive blazes, erroneously attributing the cause of the fires to poor forest management and threatening to withhold financial payments to the state. But he has since praised the state’s efforts, praising the firefighters’ “incredible courage” and promising federal assistance.
The president has visited the state just once since he was elected, preferring instead to attack its leaders and policies from a distance.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” he wrote on Twitter last weekend, as firefighters were still battling back flames on both ends of the state. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
The statement drew a backlash from firefighters, experts and residents who were watching their homes being devoured by the infernos. Gov. Jerry Brown of California, who has frequently clashed with the president over climate change and other issues, forcefully responded to the attack by calling the fires the “new abnormal.” He added that those who deny human contribution to climate change are “definitely contributing to the tragedies that we are now witnessing and will continue to witness in the coming years.”
Mr. Brown has called for a “major disaster declaration” from the White House. Mr. Trump responded on Tuesday, saying that the federal government was prepared to help and praised firefighters for doing an “incredible job” at fighting the wildfires.
It is unclear just how the president will be received in the state where he is widely derided by public officials, including some from his own party. He is heading to a fairly remote part of the state, and away from heavily Democratic areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles where he is particularly unpopular.
Throughout his presidency, the Trump administration has been in a kind of existential fight with California, battling over issues like the environment, recreational marijuana and immigration.
In rallies before the midterm elections, the president and other Republicans used California as a rallying cry to point to liberal policies gone wrong.
The Trump administration has also tried to withhold federal money over other issues, including California’s so-called sanctuary state status, which strictly limits how much local law enforcement works with immigration authorities.
California has forcefully pushed back in part by filing dozens of lawsuits against the administration over land use, climate and immigration. And Gavin Newsom, the governor-elect, has been a vocal critic of the president and the administration’s policies.
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