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Senators Probe Trump Threats Against NOAA

September 11, 2019, 11:34 AM HST (Updated September 11, 2019, 11:34 AM)
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Hawai‘i on the Hill 2019. PC: Office of Sen. Mazie Hirono

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and 13 Senate Democrats wrote to US Department of Commerce Inspector General Peggy Gustafson demanding answers following recent reports of improper behavior at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

One report said that Commerce Department officials threatened to fire NOAA employees for contradicting the President’s false assertions about the projected path of Hurricane Dorian.

In their letter, the Senators also denounced the administration’s repeated attempts to censor, withhold, and undermine science for partisan political gain at the US Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency.

“Scientists within the federal government work for the American people, not for private industry or the President’s personal vanity,” the Senators wrote. “Individuals and families across the country rely on weather forecasting to determine everything from what they wear each day to the decision to evacuate a home during extreme weather events. As deadly extreme weather becomes more and more common, maintaining public trust in these reports becomes increasingly important. Agency officials should not be sacrificing trustworthy weather reporting for political gain.”

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The Senators also requested the following information related to the circumstances surrounding the past week’s events within NOAA:

1. Whether Department officials who are not experts on the subject matter have suppressed or altered—or are actively suppressing or altering—scientific products or communications.

2. Whether Department officials were pressured or explicitly directed by the White House to take the actions reported or to overrule career staff.

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3. The legality of any actions by Department officials, who are not subject matter experts, who altered or witnessed any alterations to scientific products of communications.

4. Whether Department officials retaliated or made political decisions that have impacted NOAA’s ability to fulfill its mission to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

Joining Sen. Hirono on the letter to Inspector General Gustafson are US Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernard Sanders (D-Vt.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The full text of the letter to Inspector General Gustafson is available online.

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