Hey, Jerry Nadler: Impeach Wilbur Ross!

Hey, Jerry Nadler: Impeach Wilbur Ross!

According to a front-page story in today’s New York Times, last Friday Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire officials of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which oversees the National Weather Service (NWS), if they didn’t affirm President Trump’s fantastical claim that Alabama had been threatened by Hurricane Dorian. When Trump had initially tweeted that out, the Birmingham, Alabama, office of the NWS rightly and responsibly issued a statement that the hurricane posed no threat to the state. (Indeed, the only part of the continental United States that Dorian affected was the Outer Banks islands of North Carolina.)

Trump, as is his wont, won’t let the issue drop, which is surely why Ross threatened NOAA’s scientists with losing their jobs unless they posted a “correction” to the NWS’s completely accurate and empirically grounded weather report. Ross is among the most Trump-compliant of administration officials; it was he who made the argument that the 2020 census, which also comes under his purview, include a question on citizenship status. The question, plainly intended to undercount likely Democrats, required Ross to cook up a reason for its inclusion (he said it was to yield data that would somehow help in the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, which Trump & Co. plainly despise)—a reason that the Supreme Court found totally implausible. Ross’s problem is that the Commerce Department oversees multiple agencies whose task is to collect and publicize empirically verified and verifiable data, even when those data contradict Trump’s whims.

Ross’s conduct is an issue with political legs. While Americans hold a wide range of views about the federal government, they trust and rely upon the weather service. The prospect of screwing up the census for partisan ends upset a relatively small fraction of the public, but falsifying weather reports to comport with Trump’s fantasies is likely to upset a far wider range of our compatriots. The Judiciary Committee should certainly investigate and highlight Ross’s firing efforts, but the real hanging curveball here is simply requiring weather scientists to concoct spurious reports to satisfy the president. Put that issue squarely before the public and even Fox & Friends would have trouble defending Trump. And the fastest way to put it before the public is to initiate impeachment hearings of Ross.

So, Jerry: What say?