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President Trump during a briefing on the status of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Commerce Department inspector general released a report Thursday detailing how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defended President Trump's erroneous claims that last September's Hurricane Dorian would severely impact Alabama, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The report found that pressure from the White House resulted in NOAA releasing an unsigned statement that confirmed the president's claim that Alabama was in the storm's path.

  • Though the IG concluded that NOAA's statement damaged its reputation and eroded public trust in the agency, the report provided no recommendations for punishing officials and did not propose specific policy changes.

Background: Trump said Alabama was threatened by the hurricane and later defended the claim with a doctored version of an official National Hurricane Center map illustrating Hurricane Dorian's path that appeared to show Alabama in the eye of the storm.

  • The Birmingham office of the National Weather Service debunked the president's assertion at the time, but NOAA said in a Sept. 6, 2019 statement that the Birmingham office's post was “inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

What they're saying: “The broader, longer-term consequence is that NOAA’s rebuke of the NWS Birmingham office could have a chilling effect on NWS forecasters’ future public safety messages, as well as undercut public trust in NWS forecasts,” the report noted, per the Post.

  • “The Department’s and NOAA’s actions, in the words of one senior NOAA official, 'hit at the core' of NOAA,” the report concludes. “The Statement undercut the NWS’s forecasts and potentially undercut public trust in NOAA’s and the NWS’s science and the apolitical nature of that science.”
  • Craig McLean, then NOAA's acting chief scientist, said in a letter at the time that NOAA's "intervention to contradict" the Birmingham office's assertion on Dorian "was not based on science" and "simply put, political."

Go deeper: Trump rails against Obama, FBI, Senate GOP after Supreme Court ruling

Go deeper

Hurricane Sally makes landfall in Alabama with "life-threatening storm surge"

A driver navigates along a flooded road as the outer bands of Hurricane Sally come ashore in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, on Tuesday. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a Category 2 storm on Wednesday morning, packing maximum sustained winds were 105 mph.

What's happening: "Historic and catastrophic flooding is unfolding along and just inland of the coast, from Tallahassee, Florida, to Mobile Bay, Alabama," the National Hurricane Center said, as the storm's eyewall was moving across the coast.

Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana in 2024

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Lawmakers in Virginia on Saturday approved compromise legislation that would legalize marijuana in 2024, putting the state a step closer to becoming the first in the South to end prohibition on the drug, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Why it matters: The legislation will make Virginia the 16th state to legalize marijuana, per Politico. It would add to a slate of laws that have seen Virginia move in a more progressive direction during the tenure of Gov. Ralph Northam.

Scammers seize on COVID confusion

Data: FTC; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Scamming has skyrocketed in the past year, and much of the increase is attributed to COVID-related scams, more recently around vaccines.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a prime opportunity for scammers to target people who are already confused about the chaotic rollouts of things like stimulus payments, loans, contact tracing and vaccines. Data shows that older people who aren't digitally literate are the most vulnerable.

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