While visiting California this weekend, President Donald Trump said Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told him that “raking” was part of the country’s forest management before insinuating that it’s something the United States should be doing to mitigate wildfires. The remark was bizarre, to be sure. But now, Niinisto says that no such conversation ever happened.
Answering questions from reporters with California officials about the state’s wildfires on Saturday, Trump said that management of the “floors of the forest” was important for avoiding future environmental catastrophes like the Camp Fire, which has become the state’s deadliest and most destructive fire in its history. He then pointed to a conversation he claimed he had with Niinisto.
“You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story,” he said. “I was with the president of Finland and he said, ‘We’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. And they don’t have any problem. And when it is, it’s a very small problem.”
It now appears that the conversation never happened. Asked about the remark by Finish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, Niinisto said he didn’t recall a discussion about raking, though he did recall telling the president that “we take care of our forests.”
Beyond the fact that Finland’s president insinuated this conversation about raking happened exclusively in Trump’s mind, perhaps at the very moment the words fell out of his mouth, it is not the first time Trump has mentioned raking in relation to California’s fires. Just one day before visiting Paradise, the California town that was essentially burned to the ground by the Camp Fire, Trump again mentioned raking.
As it appears that his cited source now denies any such conversation ever happened, it’s unclear how or why the president has latched onto this bizarre and vastly oversimplified solution to a complex problem.