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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.

Go deeper

9 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

9 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.