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WASHINGTON June 12, 2017 – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, introduced the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement or “COVFEFE” Act. This bill codifies vital guidance from the National Archives by amending the Presidential Records Act to include the term “social media” as a documentary material, ensuring additional preservation of presidential communication and statements while promoting government accountability and transparency.
“In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets,” said Rep. Quigley. “President Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account as a means of official communication is unprecedented. If the President is going to take to social media to make sudden public policy proclamations, we must ensure that these statements are documented and preserved for future reference. Tweets are powerful, and the President must be held accountable for every post.”
In 2014, the National Archives released guidance stating its belief that social media merits historical recording. President Trump’s unprecedented use of Twitter calls particular attention to this concern. When referencing the use of social media, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has said, “The president is president of the United States so they are considered official statements by the president of the United States.”
President Trump’s tweets frequently make national news and are a topic of everyday conversation, including deciphering the meaning behind his tweet using the previously unheard of term, “covfefe.” While his personal account has become the de facto account for government business, it is unclear as to whether or not it would be archived in the same manner as the official @POTUS account under the Presidential Records Act. Another concern relates to President Trump’s frequent deletion of tweets. Including social media in the Presidential Records Act ensures that deleted tweets are documented for archival purposes, and makes deleting tweets a violation of the Presidential Records Act, subject to disciplinary action.
In Congress, Rep. Quigley is working to combat the Trump Administration’s recent efforts to roll back transparency. In March, he introduced the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO) Act, a bill that requires the publication of visitor logs to the White House or any other location where President Trump regularly conducts official business, including various Trump Organization properties frequented by the president. Last month, he questioned the Acting Administrator for the General Services Administration (GSA) about the Trump International Hotel lease and possible conflicts of interest.