Congressman introduces COVFEFE Act to make social media a presidential record

    Jun 27, 2017

    Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois has introduced the COVFEFE Act to require the preservation of a president’s social media records.

    The bill turns the cryptic term from a May 31 Donald Trump tweet into an acronym that stands for Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act. It would broaden the scope of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 by including the term social media as documentary material.

    The tweet was not deleted for several hours, which gave the world plenty of time to debate the meaning of “covfefe.”

    But its deletion and the deletion of many others like it have raised questions on how presidents’ social media should be handled and preserved.

    “In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets,” Quigley, who co-founded the Congressional Transparency Caucus, said in a statement.

    As is, the Presidential Records Act mandates that presidents take all necessary steps to ensure their records are properly documented and stored with the National Archives and Records Administration for public release after they leave office.

    The Act permits exemptions for personal documents such as diaries and medical records, but it otherwise asserts a broad scope. A 2014 amendment expanded its latitude to include electronic records but did not explicitly mandate the preservation of social media records.

    In light of the president’s use of Twitter as a regular means of communicating directly with the public, Quigley’s bill reignites a long-running conversation about the extent of presidential recordkeeping and transparency.

    “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,” the lawmaker said. “Tweets are powerful, and the President must be held accountable for every post.”


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