The Presidential Records Act has required that the U.S. president’s records and communications be kept intact since Watergate, and a new bill could extend the law to social media posts. On Monday, June 12, Rep. Mike Quigley (D. Illinois) introduced a proposal that would amend current law to make it illegal for the president to delete social media posts, including posts from the president’s personal accounts as well as official ones.
Quigley is naming the bill after an infamous typo that President Donald Trump tweeted and later deleted, but only after the term “covfefe” became a widespread internet meme. Dubbed the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement (get the acronym?), the COVFEFE Act would add the president’s tweets and other social media posts into the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA itself asked for electronic communications, including social media, to be included under the act in 2014.
If the amendment passes, deleting tweets, including the infamous “covfefe” typo, would constitute a violation, which Quigley says would be “subject to disciplinary action.” The legislation also seeks to clear up confusion over whether Trump’s continued use of his personal accounts (@realDonaldTrump) instead of the @POTUS (President of the United States) Twitter account is subject to the same laws.
“In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets. President Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account as a means of official communication is unprecedented,” Rep. Quigley said in a press release. “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.”
The update doesn’t necessarily mean every tweet would be archived — the NARA doesn’t keep a record of every single statement but ensures the preservation of records “that are judged to have continuing value,” which the agency says is about two to five percent.
The bill isn’t the first time during Trump administration that Quigley has pushed for more transparency. The Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO), another bill whose acronym is directed at President Trump, was proposed earlier this year, and aims to make visitor logs anywhere the president conducts business publicly available.
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