A Map, a Sharpie and Trump Walk Into a Bar...

In case you missed Hurricane Gate, let me catch you up because things only seem to be escalating and morphing into Sharpie Gate. On Sunday, Trump erroneously tweeted that Hurricane Dorian was set to hit Alabama, in addition to much of the east coast after turning into a Category 5 level storm.

Trump’s tweet caused so much concern that the National Weather Service had to issue a correction in response to his mistake to clarify that Alabama was not in Dorian’s immediate path. Despite his obvious error, and the resulting correction from experts, he has still refused to delete his incorrect tweet, which is still up now.

Trump knew Dorian was not set to hit Alabama and the White House Flickr account proves it. On August 29th, Trump was briefed by an official from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and was was shown a forecast map which clearly depicted the path of Hurricane Dorian — Alabama was not included (see image below). Nevertheless, the erroneous tweet from the weekend remained up creating the possibility for mis-information and unnecessary panic from anyone who would believe him. Let me emphasize that we now live in a time when you can’t safely believe anything the President of the United States says.

This afternoon, in a briefing from the Oval Office, Trump held up the an altered map created by National Hurricane Center, dated from 11 a.m. on Aug. 29th that he claims is “the original chart.” In the video, you can see that someone has altered the image with a black Sharpie marker and drawn a circle to include Alabama in the area forecasted to be hit by the hurricane, which was not in the original chart. Whether this new line was drawn to indicate a previous risk is not clear, but what is clear is that Alabama was never at risk and Trump knows it. Regardless, the map was altered so that it looks like his tweet from this weekend was accurate when we know he has been told the truth by NOAA officials and that he knows better. He is still trying to sell the lie that Alabama could have been in the hurricane’s path despite the consequences to the public who could still act on this information.  

When asked about the intentionally incorrect information and map alteration by reporters at the White House at another event later in the day, Trump continued to lie. He told the press that his briefings included a “95 percent chance probability” that Alabama would be hit. We know this is not true based on the image from Flickr that proves Alabama was never in play. When asked by a reporter if the chart had been drawn on, Trump did not deny it and only repeated: “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”

I hope for the sake of staffers in the White House that Trump actually admits to going rogue with the Sharpie on his own, because altering an official forecast issued by an official government entity is actually illegal:

18 U.S. Code § 2074. False weather reports: Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service , shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both.

Now seems like a good time to discuss something I think about every day. What must it be like to be a man who has lived for 73 years, yet has never had to face the consequences of his unethical and illegal behaviors. He lies about income and falsifies records to suit his needs. He bankrupts everything he touches. He cheats on everyone and anything. He was literally the worst presidential candidate in the history of the United States and was still elected. As the president, he lies on average 13 times a day. We have news outlets who have to keep track of the lies, they are that plentiful.

Trump’s inability to admit his mistakes may have endangered people, or caused them to rely on his warnings to their own detriment. It’s easy to laugh this off with the notion that anyone who is stupid enough to believe anything Donald Trump says at this point deserves what they get, but this misses the bigger point. When you continue to lie from the Oval Office, you degrade the office itself. When you lessen the standard for truthfulness to be expected from the leader of the free world, you risk lessening it for all time. Trump has degraded the presidency to a point that is not easily rehabilitated and what’s worse, he does not take a dangerous mistake like this seriously enough to do the right thing, which is to just keep his mouth shut if he can’t tell the truth. It’s clear that Trump has hit a new and desperate low when he will do anything to justify his mistaken tweet, including endangering people in the south…pretty much the only people left who will vote for him.

Tragic Update: As of 6:23 p.m. ET, he’s still shoveling.

Girl, Staaahp Update: As of 7:48 a.m. ET, he’s still going.

But the good news is, he found his costume for Halloween…

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Amee Vanderpool writes the “Shero” Newsletter and is an attorney, contributor to Playboy Magazine, analyst for BBC radio and Director of The Inanna Project. She can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.