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Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials following a tweet from the agency's Birmingham office that rebutted President Trump's claim that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama, the New York Times reports.

Context: Trump's incorrect tweet last week that Hurricane Dorian was projected to hit Alabama prompted NOAA's Birmingham office to tweet shortly after that "no impacts from Hurricane Dorian [would] be felt across Alabama." The rebuttal set off days of defensive tweets from Trump arguing that he was correct.

Details: According to the Times, Ross stepped in on Friday, confronting acting NOAA director Neil Jacobs by phone and demanding the agency fix its original contradiction of Trump. Jacobs refused the request and was told by Ross — who oversees the agency as commerce secretary — that top NOAA political staff would be fired if the rebuttal was not withdrawn.

  • Per the Times, "a senior administration official ... said that the Birmingham office had been wrong and that NOAA had simply done the responsible thing and corrected the record." The official suggested that the Birmingham office had posted the tweet in order to embarrass Trump, but provided no evidence for the claim.
  • NOAA's acting chief scientist Craig McLean sent an email to staff Monday announcing that he's investigating "potential violations" in the agency's ultimate decision to rebuke the Birmingham account.
  • The Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General is now investigating the NOAA statement and employees have been asked to preserve their files, according to the NYT (NOAA is a division of the Commerce Department.).

The other side: A Commerce Department spokesperson told Axios, "The New York Times story is false. Secretary Ross did not threaten to fire any NOAA staff over forecasting and public statements about Hurricane Dorian."

Go deeper: Weather community criticizes NOAA for defending Trump

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details on the report that the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General is investigating.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”