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House Oversight Leaders to Trump: Stop Deleting Tweets

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Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., (left) and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said they might pursue updates to the laws in the future. Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., (left) and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said they might pursue updates to the laws in the future. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

President Trump is deleting tweets, and the primary House lawmakers with oversight of the executive branch are not happy about it.

Trump and his White House staffers may be violating the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., wrote in a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn. The lawmakers pointed to reports of officials using unofficial email accounts to conduct business, communicating with encrypted messaging applications and deleting messages that should be preserved.

When officials covered under the Presidential Records Act send an email from a personal account, they must forward it to their government account within 20 days. While White House staff may intend to use apps such as Signal or Confide to protect against cyber breaches, Chaffetz and Cummings said, the “need for data security” does not “justify circumventing requirements established by federal recordkeeping and transparency laws.” They noted Trump’s deleted tweets “could pose a violation” of records laws, adding the Obama administration instituted auto-archiving capabilities on its Twitter accounts.

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Many of Trump’s deleted tweets include misspellings and typos.

The oversight committee leaders requested a list of individuals using an alias or personal email account to conduct official business and a “detailed description” of the electronic system the White House is using to archive emails and other electronic records. They asked for the White House policies on the use of official and unofficial text messaging, messaging apps, and social media and other platforms. The lawmakers demanded the specific training program for White House personnel on record-keeping.

Chaffetz and Cummings said they might pursue updates to the laws in the future.

Eric Katz joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 after graduating from The George Washington University, where he studied journalism and political science. He has written for his college newspaper and an online political news website and worked in a public affairs office for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. Most recently, he worked for Financial Times, where he reported on national politics.

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