President Donald Trump sent out a couple of tweets on Friday morning bragging about unemployment statistics. But in doing so, he may have violated a long-established rule in the executive branch.
Trump made sure to let the American people know, approximately two hours before the official numbers were published, that the number of individuals “receiving unemployment aid is the lowest since 1973.”
Because Jobs in the U.S. are doing so well, Americans receiving unemployment aid is the lowest since 1973. Great!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2018
This was a statistic that was published Thursday but may have confused many people given that Friday was the day that unemployment numbers were coming out.
That’s important because that confusion may interfere with national and global markets. If someone believes Trump is talking up the economy, for example (before those numbers are officially released), they may make several investments without knowing the details.
So, in 1985, the Office of Management and Budget created a rule barring any executive branch official — including the president — from commenting on statistics prior to their release. The rule also bars those officials from making any comment for an hour after the release of statistics that may affect the market.
“All employees of the Executive Branch who receive prerelease distribution of information and data estimates as authorized above are responsible for assuring that there is no release prior to the official release time,” the rule reads, in part.
Trump’s early tweet on Friday was not a direct comment on the statistics that were released that same morning, but one can be forgiven for believing they were. More care should be taken by the president and his staff from creating such confusion.
That being said, later on in the morning Trump did break another portion of that rule, which states that executive branch members “shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.”
The unemployment numbers for last month came out Friday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Trump, in his rush to highlight a positive bit of news in his administration, did not wait for the full hour to comment on them — a direct violation of the OMB rule.
JUST OUT: 3.9% Unemployment. 4% is Broken! In the meantime, WITCH HUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2018
Trump also took a dig at the continued investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller, writing, “In the meantime, WITCH HUNT!” at the end of his tweet.
Although he broke the provision by tweeting just a few minutes before the deadline, it’s still worth pointing out that even on the simplest of tasks, Trump cannot help himself but disregard the rules that are put in place for the office he holds. There’s a simple explanation for why he keeps messing up: He simply doesn’t care.
The error here is not incredibly damaging, but it is indicative of a larger pattern. Trump has a penchant for thinking he’s above the rules and laws that affect him — and until he’s restricted from doing so by the other government branches, we shouldn’t expect him to stop chipping away at precedents, large and small, in the near future.