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Commerce Inspector General says “Sharpiegate” report being blocked

Enlarge / Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.NASA HQ PHOTO / Flickr

Last month, we covered the results of a NOAA investigation into scientific integrity violations associated with its handling of President Donald Trumps self-inflicted hurricane controversy.

The problems started when Trump incorrectly tweeted that Alabama was likely going to be impacted by Hurricane Dorian. After seeing an influx of questions, the Birmingham National Weather Service office tweeted a clarification. Rather than simply correcting the mistake, the White House insisted that the President was right, an insistence that eventually led to his marker-amended forecast map, presented from the Oval Office.

NOAAs issue was that its leadership released an unsigned statement that sided with President Trump, criticizing the Birmingham office for speaking “in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

From NOAA to Commerce

NOAAs scientific integrity officer commissioned an investigation into that statement, concluding that Acting Administrator Neil Jacobs and Director of Communications Julie Kay Roberts had violated agency rules in releasing that statement. But the investigation also concluded that the statement had actually been directed by Commerce Department leadership—none of whom were willing to answer questions from the NOAA investigators.

Enter the Commerce Department Inspector General, who started a parallel investigation. On Monday, agency Inspector General Peggy Gustafson posted a memo summarizing her conclusions. Curiously, the memo—dated June 26—said that the full report was set to be posted at the same time on Monday. Yet the full report wasnt there, and the memo itself contained several redactions “pending privilege review.”

On Wednesday night, Gustafson posted a second memo with the subject “The Department Is Actively Preventing OIG from Completing an Evaluation.” In it, Gustafson effectively alleges that the office of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is stonewalling the reports release.

The summary memo listed four primary conclusions:

I. The Department led a flawed process that discounted NOAA participation.

II. The Department required NOAA to issue a Statement that did not further NOAAs or the National Weather Service's interests.

III. The Department failed to account for the public safety intent of the National Weather Service Birmingham tweet and the distinction between physical science and social science messaging.

IV. One NOAA employee deleted relevant text messages, and the Departments federal records guidance is outdated.

According to the report NOAA commissioned, it was Julie Kay Roberts—the Director of Communications who featured in NOAA's report—who had deleted text messages.

The second memo from Commerce Inspector General Peggy Gustafson says that Commerce leadership agreed to review her report within 48 hours, iRead More – Source

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