What did you think President Donald Trump meant when he famously tweeted about "covfefe” during a midnight missive in May? The term has been interpreted to mean anything from the nuclear codes to a text that is sent prematurely with spelling errors.
After Trump posted the phrase "Despite the constant negative press covfefe” at 12:06 a.m. May 30 it was retweeted and liked more than 100,000 times in only a matter of hours. The fragment of a sentence generated an international discussion, even after it was deleted at sunrise.
But some members of Congress say Trump’s text—along with all other presidential social media communications—needs to be retained for future generations to study. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) said the tweets are as important as official statements and speeches and should be subject to the preservation requirements of the Presidential Records Act.
"In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets,” Quigley said. “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.”
Quigley, co-founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, recently introduced a bill (H.R. 2884) to require their preservation.
The bill—the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act—would amend the Presidential Records Act to include the term "social media” as a documentary material.
Quigley’s office said preserving the tweets is important because they frequently make national news and—as was seen with "covfefe”—are a topic of everyday conversation. It said the legislation is needed because while Trump’s personal account has become the de facto account for government business, it is unclear whether it would be archived in the same manner as the official @POTUS account under the act.
"Including social media in the President Records Act ensures that deleted tweets are documented for archival purposes, and makes deleting tweets a violation of the [act],” his office said.
But the COVFEFE Act isn’t Quigley’s only initiative to combat what he said is the administration’s effort to roll back transparency.
Quigley also introduced in March a bill (HR 1711) that would require the Trump administration to publish the visitor logs to the White House or any other location where Trump regularly conducts official business, including Trump Organization properties where he entertains foreign leaders.
Quigley unveiled the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openess Act after Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Florida country club MAR-A-LAGO. He also hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at the club this spring.
The legislation calls for the creation of a publicly available database to be updated every 90 days. It is similar to a proposal that led the Obama administration to make public the White House visitor logs for seven years.
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