Energy & Environment

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 Trump’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 Johnson (D-Texas) to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross 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.” 

{mosads}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 Mulvaney 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.

Tags Alabama Climate change Commerce Department Donald Trump Eddie Bernice Johnson Hurricane Dorian Mick Mulvaney NOAA science committee Wilbur Ross
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