WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday pointed to an altered hurricane projection map and a map from an obscure Florida water management agency to defend his claim last week that Alabama faced a threat from Hurricane Dorian, despite the National Weather Service saying the state would "NOT see any impacts."
In a briefing on Dorian at the White House on Wednesday morning Trump displayed a map from NOAA, the federal agency that oversees storm tracking, that showed a new path drawn in black to include Alabama. The map was dated Aug, 29, but differed from a map distributed that same day by NOAA that did not show Alabama in Dorian's path.
Asked by reporters if the map was altered, Trump said "I don't know" but promised that a yet-to-be released map would show he was correct to tweet last Sunday that Alabama “was going to be hit very hard.”
Hours later Trump tweeted a map from the South Florida Water Management District dated Aug. 28 that showed the storm could veer to Alabama or Louisiana, but the map itself notes that advisories from the federal government's National Hurricane Center, which falls under NOAA, "supersede this product" and "If anything on this graphic causes confusion, ignore the entire product."
The National Weather Service on Sunday, moments after Trump's tweet issued their own notice on Twitter saying: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”
On Wednesday, NOAA, which oversees the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, referred all questions to the White House, which declined to comment beyond the president’s statements.
It is a federal crime to "knowingly" publish "any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions" that have been previously released by the federal government.
As Trump doubled down on his hurricane forecast from the Oval Office, he also defended his move to divert $5 billion in disaster relief dollars and military construction funds to pay for the expansion of the U.S. southern border wall and immigrant detention facilities.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office the money redirected from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would not impact storm recovery efforts because the current hurricane moved further east than initially projected.
“First of all, we’re using much less here than we anticipated,” Trump said when asked about the diverted funds. “Originally, this was going to be a direct hit into Miami … we need help on the border.”
Last week, the Trump administration announced it will move $271 million in Department of Homeland Security funds, including money set aside for the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), to increase capacity at immigrant detention facilities along the southern border.
Congressional Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), have criticized the shift in funding, noting that it comes with three months still remaining in the Atlantic hurricane season. The season is expected to run until Nov. 30, according to the National Hurricane Center.
On Tuesday, newly installed Defense Secretary Mark Esper notified Congressional leaders that the Department of Defense will redirect $3.6 billion in money previously allocated for military construction and improvement projects to pay for additional construction of a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border.
Trump, when asked about the redirected military funding, said he viewed the increase of migrants crossing the U.S. border as a “national security problem.”
“When you have thousands of people trying to rush our country, I think that’s national security,” Trump said. “When you have drugs pouring into our country, I view that as national security.”
Schumer, in a statement issued Tuesday, called Trump’s move “a slap in the face to members of the Armed Forces,” noting that long-needed projects, including work at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, will be further delayed.
“The president is trying to usurp Congress’s exclusive power of the purse and loot vital funds from our military,” Schumer said. “Robbing the Defense Department of much-needed funds is an affront to our service members and Congress will strongly oppose any funds for new wall construction.”
The U.S. Military Academy in upstate New York will lose $160 million initially allocated for repair and construction work, according to a list of affected projects released Wednesday by the Pentagon.