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Trump’s "A Plus treatment" highlights political approach to disaster relief

Illustration of an iPhone receiving a call from Puerto Rico, the only option is to decline the call.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump is promising the tornado-stricken state of Alabama that FEMA is on the way, while Puerto Rico's governor is fighting to make sure the administration doesn't divert its aid money to building a border wall.

Driving the news: Trump today on Alabama: "FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes."

  • The latest: 23 are dead, and the worst tornado was an EF-4 with a damage path nearly 1 mile wide, the National Weather Service reported today. Dozens are still missing, AP reports.
  • More from the AP: National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Darden "said the 'monster tornado' was the single deadliest twister in the U.S. since May 2013, when an EF-5 killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma."

Why it matters: The president's responses to natural disasters have been criticized for varying based on his relationship with each state's political leaders.

  • In Puerto Rico, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told Axios' Andrew Freedman in late February, after failing to secure a meeting with Trump during a visit to Washington, that his state is fighting to prevent recovery funds from being taken away. "Puerto Rico has always been treated differently, and by differently I mean in an inferior fashion."
  • Flashback: Axios' Jonathan Swan reported in November that Trump didn't want to give Puerto Rico any more federal recovery money, claiming without evidence that the island’s government was using federal disaster relief money to pay off debt.
  • In California, Trump has repeatedly expressed sympathy for fire-affected residents while also threatening FEMA funds unless the state government acts in his favor. He has railed against the state's forestry practices, blaming poor forest management for record and deadly wildfires, thereby ignoring the roles played by climate change and development.

The bottom line: In a future where natural disasters could be more frequent and more intense because of climate change, the politics of natural disasters will just get hotter.