Trump and his Twitter habit may be breaking federal law, especially insofar as misspellings and other stupid errors, because he deletes and then reposts as though he thinks nobody will notice (he should take a hint – we all notice). Because of that, Elijah Cummings and, amazingly enough, Jason Chaffetz, sent an official letter of warning to Trump about deleting his tweets because doing so could be in violation of the Presidential Records Act.
Chaffetz and Cummings sent their letter to White House counsel Don McGahn, and said:
“President Trump uses at least two Twitter accounts: an official White House account (@POTUS) and an account that predated his inauguration (@realDonaldTrump). Many of the messages sent from these accounts are likely to be presidential records and therefore must be preserved. It has been reported, however, that President Trump has deleted tweets, and if those tweets were not archived it could pose a violation of the Presidential Records Act.”
So yeah, they think the man that got elected to the White House is actively breaking the law with his Twitter account. It’s silly, too – they’re asking McGahn to provide any evidence there may be of White House staff receiving training on the PRA. Trump seems to think that a lot of the usual training White House staff gets is unnecessary. He’s, like, a smart person, remember.
They’re asking McGahn to identify senior officials covered by the PRA who have used personal email accounts to conduct government business since Jan. 20. They want names, and the names of alias accounts and other accounts used, along with a whole host of other information to demonstrate that Trump and his staff are in compliance with the law.
Speculation has been going around for awhile about whether Trump deleting tweets is illegal now. Forbes published a question from Quora about this same thing way back in February. Carter Moore, a former Congressional aide, said:
“[It’s] very unlikely [that deleting tweets is legal].
But while I hate to be too lawyerly about it, it depends on the nature of the tweet and on how thoroughly he deletes it…
…The only ‘out’ that the President would have in deleting a tweet would be if the twet could be argued to be a record of ‘purely private or nonpublic character which does not relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President.”
He went on to explain that the law puts responsibility for preserving records on the President, so the countless screencaps of Trump’s deleted tweets don’t count as preserving presidential records.
The White House put an auto-archiving system into place under President Obama so that his tweets, and the tweets of other top officials, were preserved regardless of what happened. Those tweets now belong to the National Archives. That may well still be in effect, but it applies only to official White House accounts. It wouldn’t archive tweets from Trump’s personal account, which he uses all the damn time.
Now that Congress is on Trump’s case about this, it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Or Trump might tell Congress to go fuck itself, because he’s Donald Trump and you don’t question Donald Trump.
Featured image by Alex Wong via Getty Images