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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

24 mins ago - Health

U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines

A health care worker administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Ruleville, Mississippi. Photo: Rory Doyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. is now vaccinating an average of 2 million people a day, up from 1.3 million in early February.

Why it matters: That puts us on track to hit President Biden's goal of 100 million doses a month ahead of schedule.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is forcing the Senate clerk to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, a procedural move that will likely add 10 hours to the 20 hours already allotted for debate.

3 hours ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.

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