President Donald Trump cast aside Internet mockery Thursday and launched a Category-5 defense of his claim that Alabama had been likely to be slammed by Hurricane Dorian – this time without the aid of a sharpie.
Again and again as the day wore on – and as the hurricane made its way up the Eastern Seaboard, bringing tornados and flooding in its wake – Trump fixated on the Alabama question, marshaling a series of maps and other digital information, much of it days old, to defend his position.
He marshaled official National Hurricane Center maps to demonstrate the potential threat to Alabama, though they were days old by the time Trump erroneously stated that Alabama was likely in the path of the monster storm.
The White House even released a statement from his homeland security advisor, Rear Admiral Peter J. Brown, stating that during a briefing they had discussed the storm’s ‘potential impact on multiple states, including Alabama.’ Brown said he briefed Trump ‘multiple’ times over the weekend as the storm approached.
Trump had cancelled a trip to Europe last Thursday to oversee the response to the storm. He got hourly updates on its progress, according to the White House, although with that information he would have known by Sunday, Sept. 1, when he first mentioned Alabama in a tweet, that it was not under threat.
Donald Trump on Thursday repeatedly defended his claim Hurricane Dorian would strike Alabama
Trump also managed to find time to visit his Virginia golf course on Saturday, flying there by helicopter from Camp David. He also golfed on Sunday.
The White House released a statement on White House letterhead from Brown soon after the president had sent out his seventh tweet defending his Alabama statement.
‘As the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, I briefed President Donald J. Trump multiple times concerning the position, forecast, risks, and Federal Government preparations for and response to Hurricane Dorian,’ wrote Brown.
‘I showed the President the official National Hurricane Center forecast, which included the “cone” that projects the potential path of the eye of the storm. The President and I also reviewed other products, including multiple meteorological models (often called the “spaghetti models”) and graphics that displayed the time of onset and geographical range of tropical storm forecast winds, storm surge, and rainfall. These products showed possible storm impacts well outside the official forecast cone.’
ALABAMA GETAWAY: The White House released a letter from Trump security advisor Admiral Peter J. Brown on the storm’s potential impact on states ‘including Alabama’
The letter continued: ‘While speaking to the press on Sunday, September 1, the President addressed Hurricane Dorian and its potential impact on multiple states, including Alabama. The president’s comments were based on that morning’s Hurricane Dorian briefing, which included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama. In fact, from the evening of Tuesday, August 27, until the morning of Monday, September 2, forecasts from the National Hurricane Center showed the possibility of tropical storm impacts well outside the official forecast cone.’
‘Additionally, the forecast track changed substantially over time, such that localities originally concerned about significant impacts, such as Puerto Rico, South Florida, and the Gulf Coast, saw minimal to no impact from Hurricane Dorian,’ Brown wrote.
The White House released a letter by security advisor Rear Admiral Peter J. Brown
Brown’s letter stated that he briefed Trump September 1, when the storm was approaching, and included Alabama among states that could be impacted. Trump also played golf that day, when he mentioned Alabama in a tweet
Trump mustered his on-line defense on a day when he was hammered for the display in the Oval Office of an official map that been altered with a black sharpie to back up his assertion.
The president fired off several tweets which included maps from last week that projected Hurricane Dorian’s path before the storm made landfall. Even so, he refused to respond to questions in the Oval Office about the storm or Alabama Thursday at an event with basketball great Jerry West.
‘Just as I said, Alabama was originally projected to be hit. The Fake News denies it!,’ the president wrote Thursday afternoon, adding to his tweet four maps from last Thursday.
The maps depicted a sprawling cone of the possible places where the storm could have an impact – with different colors indicating the likelihood of each. Alabama was included in a green outer band where the chances were lower.
At that time Dorian had just reached hurricane strength but was still at sea, having yet to make landfall.
One map was dated August 29 at 11 AM, and it showed the potential for the storm to reach Alabama at 8 am the following Monday. Another map, from Friday August 30th, showed no more than a 30 per cent probability the state would sustain tropical storm force winds.
Another, also from August 30th, showed the soonest tropical storm force winds could arrive would be by Tuesday night.
Those maps did show the possibility that Alabama could be impacted, although they failed to emphasize what later maps, which are constantly updated, revealed: that the storm was increasingly likely to travel up the East Coast after battering the Bahamas. Earlier forecasts had shown it the storm might slam into south or central Florida and head west.
The White House released the letter from Coast Guard Admiral Peter J. Brown on Thursday afternoon, after Trump had already put out seven of his own defenses online.
Trump also retweeted a tweet from the Alabama National Guard dated Friday that said ‘#HurricaneDorian is projected to reach southern Alabama by the early part of the week. We are watching closely and #ready to act. Are you?’
‘I was with you all the way Alabama. The Fake News Media was not!,’ the president wrote with his retweet.
The pair of tweets marked the seventh time Trump defended his claim that Alabama was in danger from the storm, an allegation that the National Weather Service debunked after the president made it during a FEMA briefing on Sunday, where he was told by officials Hurricane Dorian had turned north and would not make its way across the Gulf of Mexico.
The topic seemed to consume Trump throughout the day as he weighed in online between a meeting with executives from General Motors and a ceremony to award the presidential medal of freedom to basketball legend Jerry West.
‘In the early days of the hurricane, when it was predicted that Dorian would go through Miami or West Palm Beach, even before it reached the Bahamas, certain models strongly suggested that Alabama & Georgia would be hit as it made its way through Florida & to the Gulf,’ he tweeted Thursday morning.
‘Instead it turned North and went up the coast, where it continues now. In the one model through Florida, the Great State of Alabama would have been hit or grazed. In the path it took, no. Read my FULL FEMA statement. What I said was accurate! All Fake News in order to demean!,’ he wrote.
He returned to Twitter later in the morning to offer yet another defense of his claim: ‘Alabama was going to be hit or grazed, and then Hurricane Dorian took a different path (up along the East Coast). The Fake News knows this very well. That’s why they’re the Fake News!’
Trump fired out a round tweets throughout the day – several of which included maps from last week that projected Hurricane Dorian’s path before the storm made landfall
The president’s son Eric Trump joined in his father’s defense, arguing in a tweet that ‘I don’t think it’s beyond comprehension that Alabama was in the path had the storm not gone North.’
He added to his tweet a map from Thursday that showed a projection that Hurricane Dorian would reach Alabama on Monday.
Trump has pushed the Alabama in danger claim for the fifth day now – a declaration he first made over the weekend and has stuck to ever since.
The president attended a briefing on Dorian Sunday at FEMA headquarters in Washington D.C., where he asked about the possibility the storm would stay on a path that would take it across the Gulf of Mexico – and ultimately into Alabama.
But he was told that was not the case.
‘What you think the chances it goes directly straight as the original predictions were?’ Trump asked Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center.
When Graham said Dorian appeared to be headed north instead of across the Gulf, Trump inquired: ‘ How certain are you it will go north?’
‘Every computer model we have is pushing this north,’ Graham responded.
Additionally at the FEMA briefing, Trump said Dorian ‘may get a little piece of a great place: It’s called Alabama and Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds and something more than that, it could be. This just came up, unfortunately.’
He added: ‘So for Alabama just be careful.’
Trump also found himself in the center of a storm of his own on Wednesday as he brandished a map of a Hurricane Dorian forecast altered with a sharpie to show it hitting Alabama.
President Trump at a FEMA briefing on Hurricane Dorian on Sunday
The president said he did not use a sharpie to alter the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration map to put Alabama in Hurricane Dorian’s path. The White House declined to say who did the defacing.
Trump presented the map at a hurricane briefing in the Oval Office on Wednesday morning.
The White House did not disclose that the map bearing the weather service’s logo had been changed in any way, but it was hardly a secret. The black mark was clearly done in sharpie, the president’s favored medium.
The president says it wasn’t him and doesn’t know who made the change.
‘I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know,’ he told a reporter on Wednesday afternoon at a separate White House engagement.
Hours later – as ‘sharpie’ trended on Twitter – Trump tweeted an apparent rebuttal. He produced a map created by an entirely different agency, made long before his Sunday morning tweet that included Alabama in the storm’s pathway, displaying potential storm models. Alabama was at its outer edge.
The saga began on Sunday with a Trump tweet the claim Alabama would be affected by Dorian.
‘In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated,’ he wrote.
But he was rebutted within 10 minutes by the National Weather Service which wrote on Twitter: ‘Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.’
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO
President Trump says he did not use a sharpie to alter a National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration map to put Alabama in Hurricane Dorian’s path. But someone did – and he displayed the almost week-old altered map in the Oval Office Wednesday
This original map: The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which manages the National Weather Service, shows the five-day forecast track of Hurricane Dorian over the Atlantic Ocean. It is from Aug. 29 and does not include Alabama
The alteration: This is how the map Trump showed in the Oval Office was marked, apparently in sharpie
On Monday Trump offered an angry denial he was wrong in his prediction.
‘Under certain original scenarios, it was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some “hurt,”‘ he tweeted.
And, on Wednesday, he made three separate attempts to prove he was right.
‘I know that Alabama was in the original forecast, they thought they would get it as a piece of it,’ Trump told reporters on Wednesday. ‘Actually we have a better map than that which is gonna be presented where we had many lines going directly — many models, each line being a model, and they were going directly through, and in all cases Alabama was hit, if not lightly, in some places pretty hard.’
The president also tweeted a map from the South Florida Water Management District of the forecast that was produced on August 28 – four days before he claimed Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama.
The agency published it with a note saying: ‘National Hurricane Center advisories and County Emergency Management statements supersede the spaghetti plots referenced on this page.’
On his desk at the briefing: A personalized sharpie with his signature in gold was on the Resolute Desk when Trump invited reporters to his briefing
The tweet: This was when Trump introduced Alabama into the danger zone Sunday
The denial: This was the NOAA’s response 10 minutes after the Trump tweet Sunday
The Sunday forecast: This was the official NOAA forecast when Trump claimed the storm was heading to Alabama – showing it clearly was nowhere near
Honest I’m right: Trump finally tweeted this map, which appears to show possible hurricane paths. Some outliers pass through Alabama. The map was produced by the South Florida Water Management District, not the federal government
SO WHO WIELDED THE BLACK SHARPIE?
Also in the Oval Office with Donald Trump were:
Mick Mulvaney, Acting White House Chief of Staff
Russ Vought, Acting Director of Office of Management and Budget
Rear Admiral Pete Brown, Deputy Assistant to the President and Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor
Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, Department of Homeland Security
Admiral Karl Schultz, USCG, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard
Stephanie Grisham, White House Press Secretary
Look sharp: Stephanie Grisham and Mick Mulvaney appeared to pass notes as Trump spoke to reporters
BUT DEFINITELY IN THE CLEAR
Acting FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor- he joined by phone
But it was Wednesday’s briefing in the Oval Office that captured the most attention as the president brandished a map altered to show Hurricane Dorian could hit Alabama.
On the map, a black circle that had apparently been drawn with a marker connected the state to areas off the coast that were projected to be hit by the storm. The alteration was apparent, as Florida was enveloped in printed, white circular area just to the altered area’s right.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment from DailyMail.com about the map and why it failed to disclose that it had been changed.
Altering a forecast and presenting it as true is an offense in federal law.
The second act came at a later White House event when Trump was twice challenged on the sharpie-altered map.
Trump claimed that he was correct that Alabama, along with Georgia, would be hit ‘very hard,’ as well as the state of Florida, until the hurricane took a right turn and moved off away from the Gulf Coast.
‘No, I just know that Alabama was in the original forecast,’ he said of the amended map. ‘Actually we have a better map than that that’s going to be presented….In all cases, Alabama was going to be hit.’
Pressed to explain how the sharpie markings got there, he did not deny the map had been changed. He merely claimed, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.’
He promised a new map that would prove him right.
Then, by 6:30 pm he took to Twitter with a map that he claimed proved his point that the storm had initially been forecast to hit Alabama.
‘This was the originally projected path of the Hurricane in its early stages. As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the Fake News apologies!’ he tweeted.
It was, however, an even earlier version than his Sunday tweet – his new map was from August 28 – and produced by the South Florida Water Management District, not the federal government.
The SFWMD did not publicize the map that day and issued a press release with the NOAA map showing that Dorian would not hit Alabama.
The lines on the SFWMD map tracked across Alabama – and in one case went straight toward Mexico – were not from the National Hurricane Center’s own forecasts. They were from other forecasting models.
Additionally, its spaghetti plot map came with a caveat: ‘If anything on these products causes confusion, ignore the entire product.’
Among the confusion over the Alabama forecast were a string of unanswered questions – including why in the Oval Office, Trump held up old maps of the hurricane forecasts rather than a current chart of its path.
The enlarged, sharpie-marked, map was the only one of its size and was held up by Trump, who then gave it to his acting Homeland Security Secretary, Kevin McAleenan to hold as he pointed at it.
Trump had initially claimed Alabama was in the then-forecast hurricane path on Sunday in a morning tweet that came from Camp David, where he had retreated, to monitor the hurricane instead of making a previously planned journey commemorate the 80th anniversary of the start of World War Two.
He tweeted dozens of times, on a range of topics, including retweeting himself repeatedly, but mainly focused on the hurricane.
Shortly before 11 am, he tweeted: ‘In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5. BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!’
But ten minutes later, the National Weather Service’s division in Birmingham, Alabama, directly rebutted Trump.
It said in a tweet that Alabama would ‘NOT see any impacts’ from the hurricane twenty minutes after Trump said that it would in the tweet.
A map the president held up earlier in the day at a hurricane briefing had been altered to include Alabama. It’s included in an area in the upper left of the storm’s actual pathway
Also on the Resolute Desk: Trump’s briefing appeared to include a picture of ‘Abaco Island’ in the Bahamas, labeled ‘North eastern Bahamas’ and previous hurricane maps
For your reference: The president’s desk contained this picture of Abaco, where Hurricane Dorian has caused tremendous damage
This is our last hurricane briefing in the Oval Office: Trump had a printout of a White House photograph of him being briefed on August 29 about Hurricane Dorian
And the original picture: Trump had a printout of this photograph of him being previously briefed on Hurricane Dorian on August 29 on the Resolute Desk as he was briefed Wednesday
Trump on Monday attacked an ABC News correspondent, who pointed out in a broadcast that Trump wrongly included Alabama in the storm’s pathway, based on all the available information from the National Weather Service.
‘I suggested yesterday at FEMA that, along with Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, even Alabama could possibly come into play, which WAS true. They made a big deal about this,’ the president insisted ‘when in fact, under certain original scenarios, it was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some ‘hurt.’ Always good to be prepared!’
He added, ‘But the Fake News is only interested in demeaning and belittling. Didn’t play my whole sentence or statement. Bad people!’
On Monday, when the president held up an adjusted map at the beginning of a hurricane briefing, he did not mention Alabama. He only made mention of the Carolinas, Florida and Georgia.
‘It was going to be hitting directly, and that would have affected a lot of other states,’ he said.
‘But that was the original chart,’ he said. ‘And you see it was going to hit not only Florida, but Georgia. It could have — it was going toward the Gulf. That was what we — what was originally projected.’
He said as he pointed to the altered map, ‘And it took a right turn and ultimately — hopefully, we’re going to be lucky. It depends on what happens with South Carolina and North Carolina.’
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