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- President Donald Trump’s tweet commenting on the July jobs report violated a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule requiring members of the Executive Branch to wait one hour before commenting publicly on principal federal economic indicators.
- On Friday, Trump posted the following tweet 15 minutes after the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publicly released last month’s jobs report.
Excellent Jobs Numbers just released – and I have only just begun. Many job stifling regulations continue to fall. Movement back to USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2017
- There is no penalty for breaking the rule.
- According to the BLS report, the economy added 209,000 jobs in July and the unemployment rate fell to 4.3%.
- The rule Trump violated was passed in 1985 and reads in relevant part:
“Except for members of the staff of the agency issuing the principal economic indicator who have been designated by the agency head to provide technical explanations of the data, employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.”
- “Data” refers to principal federal economic indicators, which includes the month Employment Situation Summary (also known as the “jobs report”) released by the BLS.
- The Federal Register dated 25 September 1985 explains the purpose of the rule as follows:
“The intent of the directive is to preserve the time value of such information, strike a balance, between timeliness and accuracy, prevent early access to information that may affect financial and commodity markets, and preserve the distinction between the policy-neutral release of data by statistical agencies and their interpretation by policy officials.”
- The Economic News Release which was published at 8:30 AM (EDT) on Friday, reads at the top: “Transmission of material in this release is embargoed until 8:30 AM (EDT) Friday, August 4, 2017.”
- That’s when the information was made public, triggering the one hour wait period required by the Office of Management and Budget’s Statistical Policy Directive No. 3 under subsection 5(d).
- Trump tweeted at 8:45 AM (EDT) on Friday, 15 minutes after the report was released.
- The White House violated the rule previously in March, when then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted about the February jobs report within the hour after its release.
- Spicer tweeted at 8:52 AM (EDT) on 10 March:
Great news for American workers: economy added 235,000 new jobs, unemployment rate drops to 4.7% in first report for @POTUS Trump
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 10, 2017
- Spicer told reporters after that tweet that while he understood the rule, his early comment did not cause market disruption as the information had already been released and was being circulated by the media, according to The Hill.
- “I apologize if we were a little excited, and we’re so excited to see so many Americans back to work,” he said.
- Note: the @PressSec Twitter account now bears Sarah Sanders’ name but was operated by Spicer on 10 March.
- Trump also retweeted a Drudge Report tweet with a link to an article about the same jobs report that contained the comment “GREAT AGAIN: +235,000,” within the time period forbidding commentary by the Executive Branch.
- Jason Furman, who served as Chairman of former President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, tweeted Friday:
Most minor transgression, but this is not allowed by Statistical Directive #3. We sometimes rearranged Obama schedule to wait until 9:30am. https://t.co/HnQzpFWrxQ
— Jason Furman (@jasonfurman) August 4, 2017
- Heidi Sheirholz, Director of Policy at the Economic Policy Institute and former Chief Economist at the US Department of Labor, told The Hill:
“[The violation] doesn’t speak well for their respect for rule of law.”
Stephanie Haney contributed to this report.