As over a million Americans rush to evacuate their homes just days before Hurricane Florence is expected to slam into the Carolinas, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) released documents late Tuesday showing that the Trump administration transferred nearly $10 million away from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) just ahead of hurricane season in order to fund the White House's cruel family separation and deportation efforts.
"This is a scandal. At the start of hurricane season the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA."
—Sen. Jeff Merkley"This is a scandal," declared Merkley, who first provided the documents to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. "At the start of hurricane season—when American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still suffering from FEMA's inadequate recovery efforts—the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA. And for what? To implement their profoundly misguided 'zero tolerance' policy."
"It wasn't enough to rip thousands of children out of the arms of their parents—the administration chose to partly pay for this horrific program by taking away from the ability to respond to damage from this year's upcoming and potentially devastating hurricane season," Merkley added.
Unbelievable? Yes. Reprehensible? Yes. But it’s true. Look for yourself: pic.twitter.com/O0SxI9p5ho
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 12, 2018
In a statement to MSNBC, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—which requested the $10 million in an effort to provide more funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) detention and deportation programs—confirmed that it did transfer the money away from FEMA, but insisted that none of the funds came from the agency's disaster response and recovery efforts.
Merkley rejected DHS's claim in an appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show" Tuesday night, noting that the budget document he obtained shows the "money came from response and recovery."
"So I would dispute the statement that this has no bearing on addressing the challenges from hurricanes," Merkley said.
Watch the Oregon senator's full appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show":
News that the Trump administration moved funds out of the agency tasked with coordinating the federal government's disaster response efforts comes as the administration is scrambling to prepare for Hurricane Florence, which has been described as "one of the strongest hurricanes to churn toward the eastern seaboard in decades." The Category 4 storm is expected to make landfall in North Carolina Friday morning.
Speaking in the Oval Office on Tuesday, FEMA chief Brock Long warned that Florence "has an opportunity of being a devastating storm."
"The power is going to be off for weeks and you will be displaced from your home and the coastal areas," Long said. "There will be flooding in the inland areas as well."
But while FEMA officials issued dire warnings about the days ahead, President Donald Trump insisted—despite what Merkley's documents show—that the White House is "sparing no expense" and is "totally prepared" for the storm.
Trump also took a few moments to praise his administration's response to Hurricane Maria as "incredibly successful," despite the fact that a government-commissioned study published last month found that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico because of the devastating storm.
"Nearly 3,000 people died," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in response to Trump's comments. "That is not a 'success.' That is a tragedy and a disgrace."