According to the White House website, the role of the Office of Communications is to “craft the message” President Trump delivers to the world. But that’s obviously total crap. Trump crafts his own message and delivers it himself to the world every day via Twitter. The role of his entirely superfluous communications staff at this point is to spin whatever Trump says into something less factually inaccurate or offensive on the taxpayer’s dime.
However, there are special rules that apply to the official Twitter account of the president of the United States (@POTUS) that do not currently apply to his personal account (@realDonaldTrump). The rules are described under the Presidential Records Act, which states that certain records generated by the White House do not belong to the US president, but are instead a matter of public record.
A new bill introduced in Congress this week is looking to enforce those rules with regard to Trump’s personal account since he often uses it to make announcements altering US policy, both foreign and domestic—even though there’s a zero chance in hell anything Trump tweets will ever disappear from the internet.
It’s called the “Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement” Act—yes, it’s the goddamn COVFEFE Act, in case you thought that joke was dead—and it was introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley, the Illinois Democrat who in March brought us the MAR-A-LAGO Act, which would require the publication of White House visitor logs. (The Trump White House has decided to keep the logs secret, reversing an Obama administration policy of publishing them automatically.)
“In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets,” said Quigley in a press release Monday. “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.”
Honestly, despite all the groaning its name will induce, the premise of Quigley’s COVFEFE bill seems legit. Last week, Trump went off on a tirade about Qatar supporting terrorism, shocking everyone. The Defense Department was then forced to release a statement praising the Middle East country for its “enduring commitment to regional security,” as Trump was apparently unaware Qatar hosts a US airbase—arguably the most vital in the region—from which more than 11,000 US-led coalition forces operate.
Trump’s tweet slamming the tiny country had rippling effects felt from Washington DC to the Persian Gulf. It didn’t matter that the message was sent from Trump’s personal account. The world perceives those messages as Trump speaking on behalf of the United States in his capacity as its chief executive. In other words, it’s not really his account anymore, and thus, anything he tweets from it should be cataloged for historical purposes.
In that regard, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer perhaps put it best. Asked about tweets from Trump’s personal account, he said: “The president is president of the United States so they are considered official statements by the president of the United States.”