Democratic senator requests inspector general probe NOAA's backing of Trump on Dorian

Democratic senator requests inspector general probe NOAA's backing of Trump on Dorian
© Aaron Schwartz

A top Senate Democrat is calling for an investigation into a statement made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that reprimanded agency officials for contradicting President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump anti-reg push likely to end up in court Biden set to make risky economic argument against Trump Hillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel MORE's remarks about Hurricane Dorian.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOpen Skies withdrawal throws nuclear treaty into question GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act MORE (D-N.H.) on Monday night requested the Commerce Department’s Office of the Inspector General investigate NOAA's Sept. 6 statement chastising employees in the agency’s Birmingham Weather Forecast Office in Alabama for disputing Trump’s claims that the state would potentially feel the effects of the hurricane.

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At the time, the National Weather Service’s (NWS) forecast guidance showed only a very small risk to the state from tropical storm–force winds.

In her letter to Inspector General Peggy Gustafson, Shaheen argued the reprimand violated NOAA’s Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity “or other relevant statutes.”

The Commerce Department oversees NOAA.

The arguments over the hurricane messaging stem from Sept. 1 tweets by Trump that Alabama “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Hurricane Dorian.

Trump doubled down on his assertion last week when he held up a map of the storm's projected path that appeared to have been altered to show Dorian extending into Alabama.

Shaheen said NOAA’s statement criticizing the Birmingham office was a politicization of science.

“I believe that NOAA released this statement to defend the President’s position, while ignoring the best available science,” she wrote in her letter. The public must have confidence that forecasts are based on scientific, not political, models.”

The Commerce Department did not return requests for comment about the requested investigation. 

The New York Times reported Monday that Gustafson had opened an investigation into the NOAA statement. Shaheen's office did not immediately provide answers as to whether the investigation was opened due to their Monday night request. NOAA's IG office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Separately, the acting chief scientist at NOAA is investigating whether the agency's response to Trump's claims about Hurricane Dorian constituted a violation of policies and ethics.

Updated 1:08 p.m.