What started with a tweet intended to encourage residents of states potentially impacted by Hurricane Dorian to stay safe has escalated to a congressional investigation, a flood of reports making increasingly more dramatic claims, and President Trump, again, pushing back on the "fake news" reports based on unnamed sources.
On Wednesday, The New York Times upped the ante on the NOAA Alabama "clarification" story, reporting that unnamed sources from the administration say it was Trump himself who directed his chief of staff to tell Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross to strong-arm the NOAA to "clarify" the controversy over what its analysts were predicting about the potential path of Dorian when Trump first included Alabama as one of the states that could be impacted.
Citing "people familiar with the events," including "a senior administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters," the Times reported Wednesday that Trump, "seeking to justify his claim of a hurricane threat to Alabama, pressed aides to intervene with a federal scientific agency, leading to a highly unusual public rebuke of the forecasters who contradicted him."
"In response to the president’s request, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly correct the forecasters, who had insisted that Alabama was not actually at risk from Hurricane Dorian," the Times continues. "A senior administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters, said Mr. Trump told his staff to have NOAA 'clarify' the forecasters’ position."
The result of the order was NOAA issuing an unsigned statement on Friday correcting and giving more context to the NWS Birmingham rebuke of Trump's initial tweet including Alabama in the potential impact areas:
From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama. This is clearly demonstrated in Hurricane Advisories #15 through #41, which can be viewed at the following link.
The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.
On Wednesday, as reported by the Times, a Democrat-led congressional committee opened an inquiry into the reports that Ross threatened to fire NOAA staff if they didn't issue the correction. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology sent a letter demanding any documents or information related to the issue. "We are deeply disturbed by the politicization of NOAA’s weather forecast activities for the purpose of supporting incorrect statements by the president," wrote Democratic Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Mikie Sherrill.
Both the Commerce Department and Trump deny the claims and have denounced the reports as "fake news."
A spokesperson for the Commerce Department told The Daily Wire on Monday that The New York Times story claiming Ross threatened to fire NOAA staff is simply "false."
"Secretary Ross did not threaten to fire any NOAA staff over forecasting and public statements about Hurricane Dorian," the spokesperson told The Daily Wire.
On Wednesday, Trump denied telling his chief of staff to order the "clarification."
"I never did that," Trump told reporters Wednesday, as reported by the Associated Press. The Times' report claiming he gave the order is just more "fake news," he said.
Below are the pair of tweets that started the latest Trump firestorm: