President Trump’s unprecedented use of Twitter has for months prompted concerns over preservation of his Twitter accounts. While the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has made clear that all federal agency social media communication should be preserved in the same manner as other electronic government messages, and has stated that the same applies to the president’s use of social media, questions remain as to whether the White House is appropriately and comprehensively preserving the president’s tweets.
Now, Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) of the Congressional Transparency Caucus has introduced the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically For Engagement (COVFEFE) Act of 2017 to codify NARA’s position. The bill would amend the Presidential Records Act to include the term “social media” as a documented material, ensuring that preserving tweets from all presidential accounts is a legal requirement.
President Trump’s frequent deletion of tweets has also alarmed both government accountability advocates and members of Congress. In March, members of both the Senate and House sent letters to the White House, urging compliance with the Presidential Records Act and preservation of both social media posts and electronic messages. Senators McCaskill and Carper also wrote to NARA, and Archivist David Ferriero responded in a letter on March 30, stating that the White House has assured NARA that it is preserving the president’s tweets, including those that are deleted. Still, the scope of these preservation efforts remains unclear, and Ferriero also wrote that while NARA advises the White House on determinations of presidential records status, that authority ultimately rests with the President.
The COVFEFE Act would make deleting tweets that are presidential records illegal under the Presidential Records Act. The bill would also clarify that the President’s personal Twitter account warrants preservation in addition to the official account. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has confirmed that tweets from President Trump’s personal account are “official statements,” but the law currently allows some latitude in determining whether a post on a personal social media account is a government record.
In a press release, Rep. Quigley said: “In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets.”
Read the full bill here.