White House adviser gives Trump cover on Alabama hurricane claim

One of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report Giuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Giuliani associate Lev Parnas discussed Ukraine with Trump at private dinner: report MORE's top advisers on Hurricane Dorian issued a lengthy statement on Thursday defending the president's repeated claims that forecasts showed Alabama getting hit by Hurricane Dorian, adding another twist to the days-long effort to justify Trump's claim.

The White House circulated a statement on official letterhead from Rear Adm. Peter Brown, a Homeland Security and counterterrorism adviser, who said he briefed Trump multiple times about Dorian as well as models that showed the potential path of the eye of the storm.

"These products showed possible storm impacts well outside the official forecast cone,” Brown said.

"While speaking to the press on Sunday, Sept. 1, the President addressed Hurricane Dorian and its potential impact on multiple states, including Alabama," he continued. "The president’s comments were based on that morning’s Hurricane Dorian briefing, which included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama."

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The statement marked an escalation of the White House's efforts to defend Trump's assertion that Alabama would be hit by the storm, despite a National Weather Service tweet stating otherwise. It came days after Trump originally made the claim and as the storm lashed the Carolinas on Thursday with heavy rain, intense wind and tornadoes.

Brown noted that Florida, Puerto Rico and other areas were originally predicted to fall in Dorian’s path, but that the storm shifted track.

He also referenced forecasts from the National Hurricane Center from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, noting they did show a chance of tropical storm force winds hitting parts of Alabama.

The president earlier Thursday dug up week-old maps and tweets from the Alabama National Guard to bolster his claims about the state forecast.

It marked the third time in the last four days the president has fixated on media coverage over his original insistence during the weekend that Alabama would be affected by the storm.

On Thursday afternoon, Trump shared a series of charts dated Aug. 29 and Aug. 30 that indicated areas in Alabama had a 5 percent to 20 percent chance of experiencing storm-force winds, though newer projections were later released.

Trump also shared an Aug. 30 tweet from the Alabama National Guard saying that the storm was projected to reach the southern part of the state by the early part of this week. 

“I was with you all the way Alabama. The Fake News Media was not!” Trump tweeted.

Trump did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about his Alabama defense a short time later after presenting the Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House.

The White House press secretary on Thursday also shared a tweet swiping at CNN over a since-corrected graphic that inaccurately labeled Alabama as Mississippi.

The president is notoriously averse to admitting a mistake, but his refusal to back down on his claims about the Alabama forecast over the holiday weekend is likely to stoke further criticism as other states grapple with the fallout from actually being hit by Dorian.

The hurricane moved in on the Carolinas on Thursday, bringing with it damaging winds and life-threatening storm surges. State and local officials have ordered evacuations of areas along the coast. The storm decimated the Bahamas earlier this week, killing more than 20 people. 

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The controversy began Sunday with Trump tweeting that Alabama along with Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by the storm. His message prompted public confusion and led the National Weather Service in Birmingham to tweet that Alabama would “NOT” experience any effects from Dorian because the system would track too far east.

Instead of dying down, the controversy reached a fever pitch on Wednesday, when Trump displayed a map of the hurricane’s original projected path in the Oval Office that appeared to have been altered with black marker to extend the trajectory so it covered Alabama. 

The developments stoked broad scrutiny and were replayed across cable television, with weather analysts and other critics accusing Trump of parroting false information. Many noted that few original models predicted Alabama would feel any effects from the hurricane, and updated forecasts had been put out by the weather service.

Trump continued to dig in, telling reporters Wednesday that he knew nothing of alterations made to the map but insisting Alabama was in Dorian’s original path and that there was a 95 percent probability the state “was going to be hit very hard, along with Georgia.” 

He offered no source for that figure, but he later tweeted out an Aug. 28 map from the South Florida Water Management District that showed a few stray projections of the storm grazing Alabama. The chart came with a disclaimer that information from the National Hurricane Center and local agencies should supersede data on the map.

Democrats mocked Trump’s unrelenting focus on proving his forecast was right, with Reps. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHillicon Valley: California AG reveals Facebook investigation | McConnell criticizes Twitter's political ad ban | Lawmakers raise concerns over Google takeover of Fitbit | Dem pushes FCC to secure 5G networks Critics fear Google's power in Fitbit deal Google to acquire Fitbit for .1 billion MORE (D-R.I.) and Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanStrategists say Warren 'Medicare for All' plan could appeal to centrists Trump mocks O'Rourke after Democrat drops out of race The Memo: What the leading 2020 Dems need to do MORE (D-Ohio) among those taking aim on Twitter.