Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney instructed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) support President Trump’s comments on the path of Hurricane Dorian and contradict the National Weather Service (NWS), according to The New York Times.
Ross reportedly threatened firings at the NOAA if the administration did not back the president, which the Cabinet official’s spokesperson has denied.
The Times, citing three unidentified sources, reported that after the directive came down from Mulvaney, Ross called acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs to tell him to ensure the NOAA backed Trump.
When Jacobs objected, he was told the NOAA’s political appointees would be fired if it was not carried out, according to the newspaper.
In the wake of an unsigned NOAA statement’s release, which drew condemnation from meteorologists and former NOAA personnel, Jacobs has sought to assuage concerns about political interference within the agency.
“This administration is committed to the important mission of weather forecasting,” Jacobs said Tuesday at a weather conference in Huntsville, Ala. “There is no pressure to change the way you communicate or forecast risk in the future.”
In the same speech, Jacobs defended Trump’s insistence that the storm threatened Alabama, telling attendees “at one point, Alabama was in the mix, as was the rest of the Southeast.”
Jacobs also defended the Birmingham NWS office the statement contradicted, according to the Times.
“The purpose of the NOAA statement was to clarify the technical aspects of the potential impacts of Dorian,” he said, according to the newspaper. “What it did not say, however, is that we understand and fully support the good intent of the Birmingham weather forecast office, which was to calm fears in support of public safety.”
The Hill has reached out to the White House and Commerce Department for comment.