Commerce staff drafted statement rebuking weather service for contradicting Trump's hurricane predictions

Commerce Department officials were responsible for drafting a statement that rebuked National Weather Service staff after they sent a tweet countering President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE’s statements about Hurricane Dorian, according to a letter sent by the House Science committee Thursday.

The letter sent by House Science, Space and Technology Chairwoman Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonHouse members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Minority lawmakers gain unprecedented clout amid pandemic Americans must have confidence federal agencies are using the best available science to confront coronavirus MORE (D-Texas) to Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis Ross33K laptops meant for Alabama distance learning are stuck in customs, could be held until October Mini-exodus of Trump officials from Commerce to lobby on semiconductors Trump census order faces logistical challenge MORE stated that interviews that took place with administration staff this week revealed it was Commerce Department officials, not National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) staff, who were responsible for sending the controversial letter.

In the interview with Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator at NOAA, the committee found that an unsigned Sept. 6 statement that disavowed NWS staff in Alabama was orchestrated by Ross’s chief of staff and three other top deputies.

The statement read, “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."

The statement was in response to a tweet by National Weather Service's Birmingham office that wrote “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." 

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Trump had previously tweeted that the Hurricane could potentially hit the state.

The interview with Science Committee staff additionally confirmed reporting that White House Chief of Staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyFauci says positive White House task force reports don't always match what he hears on the ground Bottom line White House, Senate GOP clash over testing funds MORE was directly involved in “high-level” conversations surrounding the statement, according to the letter.

The lawmaker is requesting more details from the Commerce Department surrounding events that led administration officials to criticize NOAA staff for disagreeing with Trump that Dorian might veer into Alabama.

“We outlined our concerns about events surrounding President Donald Trump’s assertions that Alabama would be “hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Hurricane Dorian,” the letter from Johnson reads.

“The committee has yet to receive any responsive materials.”

In the latest letter to Ross, Johnson requests an interview with his four top staff members by Oct. 25 and asks for all call logs and notes taken during the period of time. 

Additionally, the lawmaker questions why Ross was able to provide details to the Commerce Office of Inspector General beginning Sept. 20 but has not yet provided those relevant documents to her committee.

“There is no reason for Commerce to withhold documents from the Committee while cooperating with a virtually identical request from the OIG,” she wrote.