In September of 2019—a time that now seems at least a decade ago—Donald Trump told a series of lies centered around his response to Hurricane Dorian. Most of the nonsense, like most of Trump’s lies, slid through the news without comment or correction, but there was one thing Trump did that was so obvious, and so obviously trivial, that it generated something big; something that eventually became known as Sharpiegate.
Because he hadn’t bothered to look at a report in days, Trump mistakenly reported that Dorian represented a threat to the state of Alabama. When he was corrected, rather than admit to making an error, no matter how small, Trump amateurishly redrew the boundaries of the possible path to make himself “right.” And when weather service professionals tried to give out the correct information, Trump’s hurricane-sized ego meant that he launched a vendetta against meteorologists that left the public confused and actually increased the threat from the storm. All of this led to investigations, the results of which are ready—except that Trump is now blocking the release.
Trump’s inability to admit a mistake, no matter how obvious or how small, is one of his defining characteristics. It’s also a big part of what makes him, not just an unmitigated jackass, but dangerous. It doesn’t matter whether the question is on the environment, the economy, the military, or anywhere else, Trump cannot admit a mistake. It’s simply not in him. That means that when Trump is wrong, he’ll just keep lying about it, and he will move the whole world in an attempt to prove that he was right in the first place. The final step in all this was to fire the investigators, complain about the judge, and block the report phase. Which is where Sharpiegate is now.
A report from the Commerce Department looking into whether officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were pressured into changing information about Hurricane Dorian is now complete. However, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has blocked the release of the report. And, as The New York Times reports, they’re pretty damn happy about that. The inspector general of the Commerce Department—which inexplicably still has one—prepared the report and has complained that Ross’ staff has “thwarted” attempts to release it as planned. In reply, Ross’ team has indicated that “portions of that report contain information that cannot be made public.”
A reminder: This is not a report on military positions, or even the details of a trade deal. This is an investigation into whether or not professionals at NOAA were coerced into changing their statements in order to protect Donald Trump. And yet, Ross’ team is claiming this information “cannot be made public.”
Why would that be? The inspector general’s memo makes that clear enough: “ [this] appears to be directly linked to the content of our report and the findings of responsibility of the high-level individuals involved.” Donald Trump was wrong. And in his refusal to not be wrong, men like Ross forced their underlings to make changes to weather forecasts—which is itself a federal crime.