DOJ: Trump's Tweets Are Official Presidential Statements
As the 'Twitter President,' Donald Trump may leave a legacy to the law that will outlive his judicial appointments.
According to the Department of Justice, Trump's tweets are official statements of the White House and the President. It's hardly trivial because his tweets are at issue in more than one legal proceeding.
While relatively few lawyers will litigate over the President's tweets, Twitter statements may be admissible as official records for many others.
In James Madison Project v. Department of Justice, government lawyers answered a question from Judge Amit Mehta about whether the President's tweets were official statements. The attorneys said "the government is treating the statements upon which Plaintiffs rely as official statements of the President of the United States."
It mattered because the plaintiffs argued that the tweets constituted waivers to their request under the Freedom of Information Act. But the tweets didn't matter, the DOJ argued, because they didn't waive anything.
"To be sure, the President's account identifies his office, and his tweets make official statements about the policies of his administration," they said. "But the fact that the President may 'announce the actions of state' through his Twitter account does not mean that all actions related to that account are attributable to the state."
It may look like hair-splitting, but the judge will do the untangling. It is more of the same as lawyers fight about the Russia mess.
While they sort it out, others are watching. In Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University v. Trump, for example, the DOJ says the President's tweets are official policy statements. The plaintiffs have sued Trump for blocking them on Twitter.
Lawyers will no doubt look to these government arguments if they want to introduce Twitter evidence in their own cases. Under California Evidence Code Section 1280, for example, it could be argued that any government representative's tweets are official records as admissible hearsay.
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