“He stressed to me that forecasts for Dorian last week had Alabama in the warning cone,” Roberts wrote. “He insisted that it is unfair to say Alabama was never threatened by the storm.”
Roberts’ analysis of the meeting was that the President was “just looking for acknowledgment that he was not wrong for saying that at some point, Alabama was at risk — even if the situation had changed by the time he issued the tweet” on Sunday morning, in which he said the state “will most likely be hit.” The President also provided Roberts with graphics to make his points.
Roberts referred CNN to Fox News’ public relations department when asked for comment, which did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The White House also did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. Trump has defended his tweet multiple times throughout the day on Twitter, repeatedly slamming the media for covering his statements and his use of an apparently altered chart showing the storm’s path extending into Alabama.
“Just as I said, Alabama was originally projected to be hit. The Fake News denies it!” Trump tweeted on Thursday, along with graphics from the National Weather Service from last week — days before his tweet — showing Alabama had a small chance of experiencing some effects from Dorian. By the time Trump tweeted, those forecasts had changed.
A White House aide familiar with the Oval Office meeting with Roberts said that Trump also voiced his displeasure about Fox News anchor Shepard Smith’s skeptical reporting about the Alabama map.
The President summoned Roberts “to hit back at Shepard Smith,” the White House aide said.
Roberts claimed in his email that he pointed out to the President that by the time of his tweet warning Alabama and other states of the storm — 10:51 am ET on Sunday — Dorian’s projected trajectory had moved much farther east and was no longer including any part of Alabama.
The President “seemed to agree that the forecast track had moved — but he was adamant that at some point, Alabama was at risk,” Roberts wrote. “He also reminded that on occasions in the past, forecast tracks have changed dramatically.”
As the President’s homeland security and counterterror adviser Rear Adm. Peter Brown claimed in a statement issued late Thursday afternoon, Roberts said that in his visit to the Oval Office he learned that Trump on Sunday had been shown a graphic showing Hurricane Dorian proceeding north through Florida and touching the southeastern tip of Alabama with tropical storm force winds.
A White House source told CNN on Thursday that Trump personally directed Brown to issue the statement. Brown reports to national security adviser John Bolton but Bolton did not ask Brown to release the statement, the source said.