President Trump spoke before the National Association of Realtors Friday afternoon, using his hour-long speech to attack California’s Democratic leadership with a previously debunked claim about global warming.
The president focused his attacks on California Gov. Gavin Newsom, blaming him for the devastating wildfires that tore through the state last fall.
Trump claimed improper “forest management,” not global warming, was the reason for the deadly blazes.
“Talking about forests, clean up your forests, you won’t have forest fires. Clean them,” Trump said as he recalled a recent conversation he had with the governor, who he described as “nice” and “young.”
“He blames it on global warming,” Trump said. “I say, ‘Look, try cleaning the floor of the forest a little bit. So you don’t have four feet of leaves and broken trees that have sit there for 25 years. Try cleaning the floor of the forest.’ ”
He continued: “You won’t have forest fires. And I got killed for that. It’s called forest management. I got killed for that. And then about three weeks later they announced I was right. Cuz when I was out there last year and what I saw was so horrific with some of the fires. So many people killed. The fire was, you talk about bullets, the fire was like a bullet.”
Last year, Trump told reporters that the president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, had told him his country “spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things” to prevent forest fires, a conversation Niinistö later denied having.
“I was with the president of Finland and he said, ‘We have a much different—we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation, and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things,” Trump claimed, making a sweeping motion with his hand as California Gov. Jerry Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom looked on. “And they don’t have any problem.”
Finland’s president says he is not sure where Trump got the bizarre idea that his country rakes and cleans its forest floors to prevent deadly wildfires like the ones seen in California this month.
In an interview with Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, President Niinistö said he does not recall ever speaking with Trump about Finnish people spending “a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things” to clear forest floors.
Niinisto told the newspaper that he spoke briefly with Trump about forest management on Nov. 11, when they both were in Paris for Armistice Day events. He said their conversation focused mainly on the California wildfires and a new surveillance system the country uses to monitor potential fire threats.
He said he did remember telling Trump “We take care of our forests,” but couldn’t recall mentioning anything about rakes.
California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice said says Trump’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is “dangerously wrong.”
Most of California’s forest land is owned by the federal government. California only owns 2 percent. Furthermore, Rice says forest thinning would not have stopped the Camp Fire because it’s burning on land that was thinned by flames just 10 years ago.
He noted wildfires are sparked and spread “by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography.”