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President Donald Trump at a briefing on Hurricane Florence in the Oval Office Tuesday. Photo: Zach Gibson /AFP/Getty Images

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported Tuesday that the Trump administration transferred $9.8 million from FEMA's budget to ICE, citing budget documents provided by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

The big picture: The slash in funding comes as the East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence, which threatens to wreak havoc within days, with two other tropical systems on the horizon. The Department of Homeland Security quickly followed up in a tweet refuting the claims, saying "The money in question — transferred to ICE from FEMA’s routine operating expenses — could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations."

The details: Maddow said the funds may be used for additional detention camps and added that DHS did not immediately dispute the authenticity of the document. "Instead [a spokesperson] told us that the money didn't come from any of our disaster response and recovery efforts, but again, it appears that it did come from FEMA," she explained.

  • Sen. Merkley, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee said the administration has the ability to transfer funds, but it would need to inform Congress. And if the amount is over $5 million, it would have to notify the committee chair.

DHS spokesperson Tyler Houlton went on to explain, "Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts. This is 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."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect DHS' response.

Go deeper

Swastikas found outside Union Station in Washington, D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.

Updated 57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

Scoop: Ukraine gives U.S. senators 4 specific asks

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

The chairman of Ukraine's parliament has sent a letter to eight U.S. senators outlining four specific requests for security assistance and sanctions that Kyiv believes will help deter a Russian invasion, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The Ukrainian government is leaning on Congress — and a bipartisan group of senators negotiating compromise language on sanctions that could pass the Senate — in an effort to push the U.S. posture beyond the Biden administration's approach.

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