As residents along the Eastern seaboard were preparing for Hurricane Florence’s impact, a West Coast politician was trying to manufacturing a “scandal” designed to create media outrage and even more outrageous headlines.
Even as wildfires rage across his own state, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) tweeted that (amazingly) just as Hurricane Florence approached he’d “discovered today that the Trump Administration is taking money away from @FEMA so that they can pay to put more asylum seekers in detention centers. This is a scandal,”
The scandal, Merkley told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Tuesday was that the administration had moved $9.7 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because the administration needed “to find funds for child detention camps” and “family internment camps.”
The media clearly was swept up by Hurricane Merkley.
The New York Times declared: $10 Million From FEMA Diverted to Pay for Immigration Detention Centers, Document Shows. USA Today also distorted the facts, proclaiming: Trump administration took nearly $10 million from FEMA’s budget to support ICE, documents show
What the documents actually show is the redirected money, which accounts for 1 percent of FEMA’s overall annual budget, was “transferred to ICE from FEMA’s routine operating expenses,” so it “could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations,” responded Department of Homeland Security (DHS) press secretary Tyler Houlton in a tweet.
He added that “DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready” and called the story “a sorry attempt to push a false agenda at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster.”
In fact, the budget document notes that any “mission impact is minimized” by redirecting the funds from administrative duties, such as “training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance, and IT investments in the legacy grants systems.”
“We have plenty of resources, both monetary, staff and commodities, to respond to the storm,” said Jeff Byard, FEMA’s associate administrator for the Office and Response and Recovery, during a Wednesday morning briefing.
Apparently, nothing was going to get in the way of Merkley’s storm chasing.
“After calling @SenJeffMerkley staff to inform them of the facts surrounding @FEMA budget we were told ‘It’s a TV hit, you take it where you can’ – regardless of the facts?” asked FEMA spokeswoman Jenny Burke on Wednesday morning.
Merkley and his allies are concerned with achieving their goals of amnesty and open borders and their disregard for the facts is putting the nation on the path to a real disaster.