How the Presidential Records Act affects @RealDonaldTrump


Kayla Smith

Since the Obama Administration, social media has been one of the preferred methods of communicating official White House statements.

Using Twitter as a medium for relaying statements from the president can become controversial when tweets begin to be deleted and therefore statements become difficult to recover again.

POTUS is the official Twitter handle for President Donald Trump, but the majority of Twitter users know that realDonaldTrump is the president’s preferred account.

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that, “The President is the President of the United States, so [his tweets are] considered official statements by the President of the United States,” on the topic of how Trump’s tweets should be examined, reported CNN.

There was no clarification whether Spicer was referring to the official POTUS account or Trump’s infamously more trafficked personal account.

According to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, official statements cannot be deleted unless they are properly archived first, states the National Archives.

The Presidential Records Act of 1978 also states that there is a distinction between the president’s personal records versus their presidential records, according to Politifact.

Since there is no distinction between Trump’s two twitter accounts, it becomes more difficult to determine whether tweets from Trump’s personal account are considered personal or presidential.

Recently, Trump’s personal Twitter account has been under scrutiny due to his tendency to delete tweets.

The controversy sparked when Trump tweeted in support of Republican Luther Strange during his campaign for Senator of Alabama, PolitiFact reported.

When Strange lost the election, Trump deleted those tweets, and it is to be debated whether or not these tweets were for Trump’s personal or presidential campaign agenda, according to PolitiFact.

Should a record of those tweets be kept? Is it necessary to preserve those tweets based on the Presidential Records Act?

When the motive behind Trump’s tweets becomes unclear, it in turn makes the archiving process unclear.

The Independent reported the deletion of another tweet from Trump’s personal account. This time concerning his meeting, as the president, with senior military generals at his own resort, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida.

By deleting that tweet, Trump removed evidence of a meeting he had as the president. This makes locating the record of such a meeting more difficult than if he had not erased his documentation of it.

David Ferriero, the head of National Archives, confirmed that the White House knows they should be capturing and archiving all of realDonaldTrump posts, reported the Public Broadcasting Service.

PBS confirmed that the preservation of presidential records is up to the president and the White House counsel.

The White House has agreed to preserve Trump’s tweets, according to The Hill, but has not specified on the method by which they will be preserving his tweets.

Unfortunately, there is no way to “check up” on the White House. How do we know the strategy used for saving Trump’s tweets? How do we know that they are saving his tweets at all?

Social media, specifically Twitter, is monumental in the political sphere and Trump definitely tries to capitalize on it.

With the innovations of technology, nothing is ever actually deleted from the internet. It only takes a Google search to recover Trump’s deleted tweets, but that removes the integrity from his presidency.

Since 1981 and before social media, presidents have had to archive all statements regarding their presidency. No one could simply click to delete, no one could remove ill-recieved posts and no one could “try again later” when they misspelled or misspoke.

In consonance with Time, a news outlet, if a statement was released on the White House’s website, no one would doubt the illegality of deleting that record. Why be so quick to dismiss the deletion of statements via a different medium?

The clear issue at hand is focused on the proper archiving, or lack thereof, behind Trump’s tweets. Trump deleting his posts is going to keep happening, but what he decides to remove from social media should be accounted for and not left as a destroyed presidential record.

Kayla Smith is a freshman journalism major, from Concord, North Carolina. Follow her on Twitter at @berkleys26.