U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley introduced legislation called the 'COVFEFE' Act on Monday, aimed at expanding the scope of what is preserved as presidential record to encompass social media.
Officially titled the "Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement" Act, the bill would amend the Presidential Records Act to include social media messages in preservation of presidential communications, Quigley said in a release.
The term "covfefe" emerged when President Donald Trump included it in a late-night tweet on May 31, writing "Despite the constant negative press covfefe."
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The ambiguous tweet quickly lit up the social network and stayed online for more than five hours before being removed. Trump then addressed the message with another tweet reading "Who can figure out the true meaning of 'covfefe' ??? Enjoy!" [[427603433, C]]
While the word sparked countless jokes and memes, it also raised questions yet again about the president’s Twitter use — an issue that Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois, looks to address with the 'COVFEFE' 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’s statement reads.
"President Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account as a means of official communication is unprecedented," he continued. "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."
While the official @WhiteHouse and @POTUS Twitter accounts are archived under the PRA, it’s not clear if the president’s personal account @RealDonaldTrump is archived as part of official record. The 'COVFEFE' Act would ensure that it is, and would also make deleting tweets a violation of the act subject to disciplinary action, according to Quigley.
As he did throughout his candidacy, Trump has frequently taken to Twitter as president to share his views — sometimes contradicting the messaging of his administration.
The morning after the deadly attack at London Bridge on June 3, Trump used the platform to attack the city’s mayor for saying there was "no reason to be alarmed," a statement Mayor Sadiq Khan made in the context of reassuring residents about a heightened police presence.
The president’s mischaracterization of Khan’s words drew a sharp rebuke from the mayor, as well as questions on the relevance of Trump’s tweets. [[426691081, C]]
"They matter in the sense that they give him a communications tool," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said at a press briefing the next day, adding that Twitter is important so he can "communicate directly to the people without the bias of the media" that she said "obsesses over every period, dot."
She was then contradicted by press secretary Sean Spicer, who said Tuesday that Trump’s tweets should, in fact, be taken as official statements.
"The president is president of the United States," Spicer explained, "so they are considered official statements by the president of the United States."
Amid the confusion surrounding the legitimacy of his statements made on Twitter, Trump’s tweets have raised ethical concerns as well. After Nordstrom decided to stop selling his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line in February, Trump tweeted that the department store has treated her "so unfairly."
Experts argued that the tweet — which was posted just 21 minutes after the scheduled start of his daily briefing and was retweeted by the official @POTUS account — was problematic for its implicit threat to retailers and the use of his office to benefit his family’s personal interests.
While Trump has not received any official warnings himself, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel issued White House social media director Dan Scavino a letter of admonishment Friday after determining that he violated the law by using an official-looking Twitter account for campaign purposes.
Trump has often used his personal account to make major announcements, like unveiling his recent Air Traffic Control Initiative or his intention to nominate Christopher Wray as FBI director.
He also uses the platform to advocate for his agenda, including calls for his stalled travel ban.
On Tuesday, the president wrote that it’s necessary "for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won't help us protect our people!"
Trump’s tweets on his controversial executive order have not only drawn sharp criticism, but have also been used in court rulings blocking the ban from taking effect.
"Tweets are powerful, and the President must be held accountable for every post," Quigley said Monday.
Quigley also introduced the "Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO)" Act in March to require the publication of visitor logs to locations where the commander in chief conducts official business, including Trump Organization properties, in addition to the White House.