Sharpiegate: Democrats Launch Probe Into Whether Team Trump Worked to Muddy Hurricane Facts

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) at a campaign event in Dallas, July 2019. The head of the House science committee has launched an investigation related to Sharpiegate.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) at a campaign event in Dallas, July 2019. The head of the House science committee has launched an investigation related to Sharpiegate.
Photo: Tony Gutierrez (Associated Press)

Donald Trump wouldn’t let Sharpiegate go when he kept insisting that Alabama was in grave danger from Hurricane Dorian, and now, neither will the Democrats.


On Wednesday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, led by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), started an investigation into whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross meddled in the presentation of scientific fact in order to make Trump, his boss, look good.

As the Hill reports:

Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Wednesday, requesting a briefing from him [...] .

“It appears that in an attempt to support President Donald Trump’s incorrect tweet asserting that Alabama would be “hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Hurricane Dorian, Commerce officials may have taken a number of steps to pressure NOAA into supporting the President’s assertions,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Ross.

NOAA, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and its offshoot the National Weather Service are both under Ross’ control as part of the Commerce Department he heads.

After Trump’s Alabama tweet raised concern among people living in the state, the weather service there tweeted out that Alabama was actually in no danger from the storm.

But days later on Sept. 6— reportedly after Ross threatened to fire key NOAA staffthe NOAA sent out another tweet saying that the Alabama office had been wrong to dispute Trump.


Trump called the reporting about Ross demanding firings “fake.” But, now, Democrats want answers.

In their letter to Ross, Johnson and Sherrill wrote, per the Washington Post:

“We are deeply disturbed by the politicization of NOAA’s weather forecast activities for the purpose of supporting incorrect statements by the president.”

[...] J

The House members are seeking answers to who ordered and helped draft the Sept. 6 statement and whether Commerce Department or White House staff members were involved in threatening NOAA leadership to secure the statement.

“We are committed to supporting the activities of the NWS and its dedicated staff. During your Senate confirmation hearing, you committed to allowing federal scientists to ‘be free to communicate data clearly and concisely’ and that you would ‘not interfere with the release of factual scientific data,’” Johnson and Sherrill wrote to Ross.


The two lawmakers said if reports of Ross’ interference were true, it would appear “that Ross violated the ‘values of scientific integrity,’” according to the Post.


I see some people who don’t seem to get the seriousness of this. But when you’re lying about the weather you’re already a few clicks into Nineteen Eighty-Four and you should be super worried.

The whole thing is insidiously petty, which is what makes it so dangerous. You don’t get to piss on America’s leg and...tell us a hurricane hit it. I was also glad for the first time seeing someone stand up to the administration from within the government, itself, on the record, and be like “No, actually, Dorian isn’t going to hit Alabama, no matter what you heard or who you heard it from.”  It wasn’t even shade; it was a straight-up read.