The “SharpieGate” scandal added another curve on Thursday. Amid warnings that whoever altered the map President Trump displayed in an Oval Office briefing on Hurricane Dorian may have violated a 1948 law forbiddding issuing “counterfeit weather forecast[s] or warning[s] of weather conditions,” The Washington Post reported that an unnamed White House official told the paper that it was Trump himself who took the Sharpie to the map to include Alabama in the potential impact area.
“It was Trump who used a black Sharpie to mark up an official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map, which he displayed during an Oval Office briefing on Wednesday, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations,” the Post reported Thursday.
“No one else writes like that on a map with a black Sharpie,” the official said.
“Several White House officials argued that media coverage of the Alabama issue has been unfair to Trump, but one senior administration official said that ‘as long as it’s in the news, he is not going to drop it,'” the Post reports.
The Post’s report follows a warning from its own Aaron Blake on Wednesday that a 1948 federal law could mean big trouble for whoever marked up Trump’s map. “Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both,” 18 U.S. Code § 2074 reads. (The Post has since published another report explaining “Why President Trump’s Sharpied weather map was likely a crime — and should be.”)
At the briefing Wednesday, Trump showed the”Sharpied” map and was pressed on it by a reporter. “[When] you showed us the map earlier, the original forecast of it, it appeared to have been, I guess, edited or something to include Alabama,” the reporter asked. “Can you explain how that change was made?”
“No. I just know … that Alabama was in the original forecast,” he said. “They thought it would get it, as a piece of it. Actually, we have a better map, which is gonna be presented, where we had many lines going directly — many models, each line being a model — and they were going directly through. And in all cases, Alabama was hit, if not lightly, in some cases pretty hard. Georgia, Alabama — it was a different route. They actually gave that a 95% chance probability. It turned out that that was not what happened; it made the right turn up the coast, but Alabama was hit very hard, was going to be hit very hard.”
Asked again about how the change was made, Trump said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
On Wednesday, Trump also tweeted out a so-called spaghetti map showing that Alabama was initially projected as potentially being impacted by the storm. “This was the originally projected path of the Hurricane in its early stages,” he tweeted. “As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the Fake News apologies!”
Soon after he posted the tweet, the Associated Press quoted hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, who blasted the map. “He has no clue what he’s talking about, or what is plotted on that map,” said McNoldy. “At the time of that cycle, Alabama was at even lower risk than before, and it was barely anything to start with.”
But Trump has since followed that tweet up with another early model likewise showing Alabama as potentially being impacted by Hurricane Dorian. “Just as I said, Alabama was originally projected to be hit. The Fake News denies it!” he tweeted Thursday.
As The Daily Wire detailed Thursday, “SharpieGate” officially started over the weekened when Trump posted an update on the status of Hurricane Dorian. “In addition to Florida — South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5,” he tweeted. “BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!”
The inclusion of Alabama, which was in fact included in some early projections, but by the time Trump posted the tweet was considered safely out of the storm’s potential path, prompted the National Weather Service (NWS) Birmingham to tweet out a correction: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”
Trump also named Alabama as a state that could feel some effects of the storm in a briefing Sunday, suggesting that recent models included it, which wasn’t the case. Amid backlash from the media, Trump would go on to tweet defenses of his inclusion of Alabama several times over the next few days.