Did President Donald Trump violate U.S. law by showing an errant weather map on Wednesday?
Let’s rewind a bit. On Sunday, Trump warned that Hurricane Dorian could potentially threaten the U.S. state of Alabama.
When news media contradicted the president’s claim, pointing out that the National Weather Service wasn’t predicting an immediate worry for that state, Trump went on the offensive, asserting he was correct, even as a government agency contradicted his statements from before.
“I suggested yesterday at FEMA that, along with Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, even Alabama could possibly come into play [in being in the storm’s path], which WAS true,” Trump said, per prior reporting from HillReporter.com.
On Wednesday, video via an official government tweet from the White House Twitter account showed Trump holding up a weather map, which demonstrated the trajectory of Hurricane Dorian heading westward.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 4, 2019
According to the most recent trajectories from NWS, Dorian is actually heading northward, toward the eastern seaboard of the United States, threatening Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
Trump, within that video, can be seen holding up and stating that the “original” trajectory is heading westward, Business Insider reported. The map also appears to have been altered by a black marker, to make it seem as though it could extend further into Alabama.
It’s possible that some may view the president’s actions as inappropriate — a number may even view them as illegal. According to U.S. Code Title 18, “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.”
In other words, showcasing weather trajectories that are wrong is a federal offense.
Trump may avoid this charge for a number of reasons, including the fact that he stated in the video that the path of Hurricane Dorian was now moving northward, and that the map he held up were the original trajectories predicted. Yet his actions may still be seen as irresponsible, as he showed in only one map the direction the storm was taking, which was westward, the wrong direction according to climate observers.