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Tuesday, June 13, 2017


All the predisent's tweets

by Tom Sullivan

YouTube image capture.

A statement last week from Marc Kasowitz, "Predisent Trump’s personal lawyer," blasted former FBI Director James Comey’s Senate testimony. If Trump had tweeted the thing, it would have become an official presidential record if the bill proposed by Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois had been law.

NPR reports:

Ladies and gentlemen, Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois presents: the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement, or COVFEFE Act.

As Congress has taught us time and again, any legislative priority can be pretzeled into an acronym if you simply toss away the conventions of standard American English.

But like the best legislative acronyms, the Covfefe Act's title points to its content. If you've forgotten, or you called in sick to the national conversation on May 31, President Trump tweeted simply, "Despite the constant negative press covfefe", which was retweeted more than 100,000 times before he deleted it. And a strange new word was born.

Quigley's bill amends the Presidential Records Act to include the term "social media" among the materials that are documented, "ensuring additional preservation of presidential communication and statements while promoting government accountability and transparency," according to a press release on Quigley's website.
So along with the predisent's other verbal finger paintings, dead-of-night insults he broadcasts in response to perceived slights would become historical record. American politicians used to address perceived insults with dueling pistols and canes. How far we have come.

A unanimous decision yesterday by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Trump's second travel ban treats some if not all the predisent's tweets as serious policy. The court determined that the travel ban's second iteration both exceeds presidential authority and provides no rationale for why entry of persons from six designated countries "would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” The court included a footnote citing the predisent's tweeting habits:
14 Indeed, the President recently confirmed his assessment that it is the “countries” that are inherently dangerous, rather than the 180 million individual nationals of those countries who are barred from entry under the President’s “travel ban.” See Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter (June 5, 2017, 6:20 PM), https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/871899511525961728 (“That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!”) (emphasis in original);
Slate's Dahlia Lithwick explains:
In a new article on presidential speech and the courts, Cardozo Law School’s Kate Shaw notes that the judicial branch shouldn’t take casual presidential comments too seriously. She argues, however, that there is a subset of cases in which presidential speech reflects a clear manifestation of intent to enter the legal arena, among them cases touching on foreign relations or national security and those in which government purpose constitutes an element of a legal test. Based in part on Sean Spicer’s assurance that Trump’s tweets are official statements, the per curiam panel of the 9th Circuit has just ruled that the president’s Twitter commentary clearly falls in the category of speech that belongs in the legal arena.
Lithwick further observes:
We’ve been told by the White House at various points to take the tweets seriously, to take them seriously but not literally, and to take them not at all seriously. The courts now seem to have decided to go with door No. 1.
The Trump administration's astonishing lack of message discipline — and his family's — play's hell with his staff, we know. Especially Sean Spicer. Trump notably stayed off his phone during the Comey hearings last week while his eldest took a turn at the undermining. It's all fun and games, they say, until someone loses an eye. Now a federal court has taken Trump's bleats as legally serious. They've just helped lose him a court case.

Careful with that axe, Eugene.