Trump’s Tweets: Will They Go in the National Archives?
Agency clarifies that transition team documents are not federal records.
President-elect Trump in the past 30 days has posted 4.7 tweets per day for a total of 142 to his 17.2 million followers, according to the website Twittercounter.
So it stands to reason that this activity was noticed by officials at the National Archives and Records Administration. On Nov. 16, the agency’s chief records officer, Laurence Brewer, sent a memo to staff saying that the materials created by the President-elect’s transition team “are not government records, under either the Federal Records Act or the Presidential Records Act (PRA). Once the new president takes office, the creation and maintenance of presidential records are governed by the PRA.”
That law applies to “all documentary materials, in all formats, that relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the president.”
If, however, a member of the transition team is appointed to an agency, and if his or her records are incorporated into agency working files, then they become public records. If the transition team member’s records are kept separate from agency files, then they remain private.
The same principles apply to the Freedom of Information Act, which does not cover documents created by the presidential transition team.
Though many critics and advisers have urged Trump to curtail his Twitter habit once he’s in the Oval Office, he has made no promises to abandon what he considers a powerful form of direct communication that is not filtered through the news media.
Tweets in general, the Archives confirms on its website, are not systematically collected, but they can be part of agency records. In 2010, when Twitter was new, the Archives applauded the Library of Congress’ efforts to capture all American tweets as a cultural record, but that project has run into budgetary roadblocks.
“At the National Archives, we are working with over 250 federal agencies and their components to identify and schedule federal records; some of these most certainly are tweets,” the agency’s website said. “Our records appraisal process identifies those records that are valuable enough to be permanently preserved.”