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Trump's stormy affair (on Dorian) swirls anew

President Donald Trump and acting Secretary of Homeland

President Donald Trump and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan update the media on Hurricane Dorian with an altered weather map last Wednesday in the Oval Office at the White House. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Jim Watson

A picture of Dorian cray

It's not just Sharpie-gate now. There's major new blowback from top government weather-forecasting professionals at what they depict as an ill-advised effort by political appointees to appease President Donald Trump. 

The acting chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said he is investigating whether the agency's officials broke rules and compromised the mission of guarding public safety by caving to Trump over a disputed Hurricane Dorian forecast. They did so, it emerged Monday, after Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top NOAA officials.

An administration that has striven to silence climate-change science inside government is having a hard time muting those on the weather side. National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini got a standing ovation at a major weather industry conference in Alabama when he broke with his NOAA bosses by enthusiastically praising the performance of his agency’s forecasters during Dorian, The Washington Post reported.

After Trump tweeted erroneously on Sept. 1 that Alabama was among states to "most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated," worrying Alabamians who saw it, the Twitter post 20 minutes later from the Birmingham NWS office — that the state faced no threat — upheld “the integrity of the forecasting process,” Uccellini said. “Let me be clear: The Birmingham office did this to stop public panic, and to ensure public safety,” said Uccellini, a 30-year veteran of the agency.

According to the Post, the chief NOAA scientist, Craig McLean, sent an email Sunday to employees that rebuked agency leadership for its unsigned Sept. 6 statement that defended Trump and criticized the NWS in Birmingham. 

"My understanding is that this intervention to contradict the forecaster was not based on science but on external factors including reputation and appearance, or simply put, political,” McLean wrote. As a result, he said, “I am pursuing the potential violations of our NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity."

Ross' threat to fire NOAA officials was reported by The New York Times. While traveling in Greece, the Commerce secretary on Friday phoned Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, and instructed him to fix the agency’s perceived contradiction of the president. When Jacobs objected, he was warned that the political staff at NOAA would be fired if he didn't do what he was told. The unsigned statement followed.

Why CIA lost its Russia source 

U.S. intelligence officials decided to extract one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government two years ago in fear the spy's cover would get blown.

CNN reported the worries were driven in part by the mishandling of intelligence by Trump and his administration, including information the president shared in the Oval Office with Russia's foreign minister and U.S. ambassador. 

But former intelligence officials told The New York Times that there was no public evidence that Trump directly endangered the source. The CIA concerns arose earlier when intelligence officials’ revelations of Russia’s election interference to favor Trump spurred news media awareness of the agency’s Kremlin sources, the Times said.

The removal operation in 2017 was successful, but it left the U.S. without one of its key sources on the inner workings of the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin's thinking, reports said.

'Nothing to do with me'

The Air Force is now reviewing how its crews ended up spending nights at Trump's Turnberry golf resort in Scotland. "Even when USAF aircrews follow all directives and guidance, we must still be considerate of perceptions of not being good stewards of taxpayer funds that might be created through the appearance of aircrew staying at such locations," an Air Force spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas, told Politico.

"NOTHING TO DO WITH ME,” Trump tweeted Monday. He also tweeted he “had nothing to do with” Vice President Mike Pence's recent stay at the Trump Doonbeg resort in Ireland. Last week, Pence chief of staff Marc Short said Trump had suggested it to Pence, but Pence's office later walked that back.

Trump said he would release a "financial report of me" sometime before the 2020 election that will show "the numbers are many, many times what you think" and "I don't need to have somebody take a room overnight at a hotel." That could be disappointing to patrons with political interests who figure it pleases the president to give him their business. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Janison: Gave peace a chance

You can say this for Trump, writes Newsday's Dan Janison: For all his build-the-military, hold-a-parade, we-could-nuke-you bluster, the president so far has lunged for glory by professing to be a great negotiator of agreements — not a conqueror.

The fallout from his scrubbed peace conference with the Taliban at Camp David is that the war in Afghanistan may now get worse as the Islamic militants increase their violent drive for dominance. 

But Trump said he had no regrets for trying, or for inviting the terrorists were allied with the 9/11 terrorists to Camp David to the U.S. presidential retreat.

"There have been many very powerful meetings at Camp David having to do with enemies. Real enemies. Very big enemies. War. And I thought Camp David would be good and I still do," he said Monday. But he also declared that the peace talks "are dead," reports Newsday's Figueroa.

A Kim Jong Ultimatum

North Korea said Monday it is willing to resume nuclear diplomacy with the United States in late September. But  Washington must come to the negotiating table with acceptable new proposals, and if they don’t satisfy North Korea, dealings between the two countries may come to an end, First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said.

Trump called the announcement “interesting.”

Early on Tuesday, North Korea launched two unidentified projectiles into the sea off its east coast, South Korea's military said.

Trumps: The next generation

Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs is a Trump friend on and off the air, but he couldn't abide by the 2020 campaign manager's prediction that the president's family will become "a dynasty that will last for decades."

"This may be one of the dumbest things a campaign manager for a populist candidate ever said," Dobbs tweeted.

But a story in The Atlantic suggests the question may not be whether another Trump will seek office but who will go first, and that Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have been waging a cold war to undercut each other.

Trump's comments have suggested Ivanka — the one he brought to the White House — is his favorite. “If she ever wanted to run for President I think she’d be very, very hard to beat,” Trump said earlier this year. But it's the pugnacious Donald Jr., not the genteel Ivanka, who excites Trump rally crowds, even though the president is said to have remarked that, “He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer."

What else is happening:

  • Trump got creative about weather again Monday. He said people waiting in line for his rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, "are soaking wet." A reporter there said it was sunny, 88 degrees and hadn't rained all day
  • Warming up the rally, Pence said, "It's going to take at least four more years to drain that swamp."
  • Along with his standard rally material, Trump touted his decision to weaken future energy-efficiency rules for light bulbs. "I'm not a vain person...But I look better under an incandescent light than these crazy lights that are beaming down," he said.
  • A federal judge in San Francisco on Monday revived a nationwide injunction against Trump’s move to ban asylum-seekers who pass through another country en route to the United States. The White House is asking the Supreme Court to settle the matter.
  • Hours after acting Customs and Border Protection head Mark Morgan indicated his agency would avoid setting onerous conditions for letting in Bahamians fleeing Dorian's devastation, Trump  emphasized that “very bad people” could exploit the process and said “Everybody needs totally proper documentation."
  • The House Judiciary Committee set a vote for Thursday on a resolution to define the parameters of its impeachment investigation. Committee aides told CNN the goal is to make a recommendation by the end of the year.
  • A senior adviser to Joe Biden said the candidate “misspoke” when he said he “immediately” opposed the Iraq War after the invasion began.
  • Elizabeth Warren has made a selling point of not wooing wealthy donors or holding big-money fundraisers. But The New York Times notes she did both before joining the race and $10.4 million in leftover funds from her 2018 Senate campaign to provide a cushion for her 2020 run.

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