Democrats and Republicans in Congress don’t seem to agree on much these days, but leaders from both parties appear to share an interest in the legality of President Donald Trump‘s social media habits. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) wrote a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn expressing concerns over compliance with the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act. They claim that any time President Trump deletes a post from Twitter, he might be breaking the law.
The Presidential Records Act makes it the responsibility of the President to preserve and maintain presidential records. The law says that the President can dispose of records that “no longer have administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value,” but only after consulting with the Archivist of the United States.
Reps. Chaffetz and Cummings noted in their letter that President Trump currently uses two Twitter accounts, the official @POTUS one and his personal @realDonaldTrump account that he had before he took office.
“Many of the messages sent from these accounts are likely to be presidential records and therefore must be preserved,” the Congressmen wrote. They cited a report that the President had tweeted a message about meeting with generals at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, only to delete it later. The same report also referred to a tweet that had a spelling error that was deleted before a corrected version went up. If these tweets were not archived before being deleted, the Congressmen say, it could be a violation of the law. The letter mentioned that when Barack Obama was President, his administration utilized an auto-archiving method for accounts.
If Trump deleted the posts without archiving, and without consulting with the Archivist, this would indeed appear to be in violation of the Presidential Records Act. The letter requested that McGahn provide Congress with information regarding their policies when it comes to the Presidential Records Act, including “the use of non-official electronic messaging accounts, including … social media platforms to conduct official business.” Chaffetz and Cummings also asked about procedures that are in place to make sure communications — including those on social networks — “are properly secured and preserved as presidential records.”
The Congressmen demanded that Mr. McGahn turn over the requested information within two weeks.
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