You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but Donald Trump apparently needs his Commerce Secretary to keep those weather forecasters in line with the president’s ignorant whims.
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The New York Times revealed today that corrupt Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) after the agency’s National Weather Service Birmingham, Alabama office did their jobs properly and corrected Trump’s erroneous tweeted warning that Hurricane Dorian was “most likely” headed their way.
The Times cites “three people familiar with the discussion” as the source of the claim that Secretary Ross made the threat to senior NOAA employees on Friday afternoon. Shortly after the confrontation, the NOAA issued an unsigned statement condemning its own scientists’ by-now-proven contention that the Gulf coast state was not at risk.
The capitulation to political pressure caused outrage among the fact-based meteorologists at the agency — as well as with any other scientists who value the truth over the political expediency of pleasing a juvenile-minded and highly insecure president who wields a black sharpie marker to alter any weather map that displeases him.
To the bewilderment of just about everyone, Donald Trump refused to admit his mistake when he sent his tweet with wildly outdated forecasts of Hurricane Dorian’s projected trajectories and then took the further steps of inventing his own evidence of the truth of his ill-timed warning.
According to The New York Times, Secretary Ross was traveling for meetings in Greece when he called the acting administrator of the NOAA, Neil Jacobs, and ordered him to fix the problem caused by his underlings’ apparent contradiction of the president. Dr. Jacobs reportedly balked at the demand until he “was told that the political staff at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed,” the newspaper reported.
As one of those political appointees, Dr. Jacobs abandoned his objections after the threat.
Today, the NOAA’s acting chief scientist, Craig N. McLean, sent an email to the agency’s staff disclosing that he was investigating the “potential violations” that the decision to endorse Trump’s false forecast rather than the work of its own meteorologists, calling the agency’s cowardly move “a danger to public health and safety.”
At the same time, Louis Uccellini, the National Weather Service director, got a standing ovation at a Huntsville, Alabama weather industry conference when he heaped praised upon the NWS Birmingham office, saying that the staff members had only “with one thing in mind, public safety” when they issued their contradiction of Trump’s ridiculous contention that Alabama faced risk of being hit “harder than anticipated.”
Meanwhile, the disclosure of Secretary Ross’ involvement the tempestuous kerfluffle has led to calls for his resignation from both legislators and environmental groups.
New: Calls come in for @SecretaryRoss to resign after report that he threatened top NOAA staff after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted Trump's hurricane claims
— Miranda Green (@mirandacgreen) September 9, 2019
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released a statement saying:
Ross’ actions undermine scientific integrity within the Commercde Department for political purposes, and could erode trust in essential public health agencies. His actions, on behalf of Donald Trump, threatened to instill panic simply to give cover for Trump. Obviously, this shameless abuse of power could have devastating results now and in the future, demonstrating that Ross is unfit to continue in the cabinet and that he does not care that he is supposed to represent the American public above Trump’s fraglile ego.”
Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) called Ross’ actions “an embarrassing new low for a member of this Cabinet which has been historically venal and incompetent.”
While Ross surely should resign — if not for this, then for his many financial conflicts of interest, the entire situation makes one long for the days of President Harry Truman who infamously declared that “the buck stops here,” and accepted ultimate responsibility as the nation’s chief executive for anything that his administration did.
Compare Truman’s attitude with Trump’s incessant finger-pointing and shirking of any responsibility for the outcomes of his actions and policies — as if we needed any more proof of the current president’s complete and utter lack of qualifications for his job. In the end, Trump is the one who needs to resign if we want our government to return to normalcy.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by Christopher Flavelle, Lisa Friedman and