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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— who oversees the agency as commerce secretary — that top NOAA political staff would be fired if the rebuttal was not withdrawn.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

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The vaccine race turns toward nationalism

The coronavirus pandemic is worsening, both in the U.S. and abroad, with cases, hospitalizations and deaths all rising.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the state of global vaccine development — including why the U.S. and China seem to going at it alone — with medicinal chemist and biotech blogger Derek Lowe.

Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day.
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases — Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" wave.
  4. Sports: Boston Marathon delayed MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How central banks can save the world

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The trillion-dollar gap between actual GDP and potential GDP is a gap made up of misery, unemployment, and unfulfilled promise. It's also a gap that can be eradicated — if central banks embrace unconventional monetary policy.

  • That's the message from Eric Lonergan and Megan Greene, two economists who reject the idea that central banks have hit a "lower bound" on interest rates. In fact, they reject the idea that "interest rates" are a singular thing at all, and they fullthroatedly reject the idea — most recently put forward by New York Fed president Bill Dudley — that the Fed is "out of firepower."

Why it matters: If Lonergan and Greene are right, then central banks have effectively unlimited ammunition in their fight to increase inflation and employment. They are limited only by political will.