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Trump’s jobs report tweet in advance of release appears to have violated federal rules

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 6/1/2018 Steve Goldstein

Video by CNBC

President Donald Trump’s tweet in advance of the crucial jobs report on Friday may have violated federal guidelines barring officials from commenting on data before its release.

Trump tweeted, at 7:21 a.m. Eastern, “Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning.” The numbers provided reason to look forward — an 18-year low of unemployment, and 223,000 jobs created.

See: U.S. adds 223,000 new jobs as unemployment falls to 18-year low in May

The rule Trump may have violated is set out by the Office of Management and Budget in the Statistical Policy Directive No. 3.

The chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers — Kevin Hassett, currently — and the president are allowed to get briefed on the jobs report. However, "agencies must ensure that adequate steps (e.g., sequestering those granted access) are taken to prevent prerelease disclosure or use. So long as there is no risk of prerelease disclosure or use, prerelease access is permitted.”

Here’s what they are required to do: “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.”

Two areas of wiggle room seem to emerge — one, whether Trump is covered as an “employee of the executive branch,” and two, whether the tweet without numbers can be construed as a “comment.”

Jason Furman, who previously was chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, tweeted that the president should never see them again. Austan Goolsbee, who also held that role for Obama, pointed out how sensitive it is.

Tony Fratto, who was a spokesman for the Treasury Department under President George W. Bush, said he’s not sure Trump broke the law.

Messages left with the White House, the OMB, the Labor Department and the Labor Department’s inspector-general weren’t immediately returned.

As MarketWatch’s Rex Nutting pointed out in a column last year criticizing a president’s tweet on the jobs report at 8:45 a.m., Trump is not the first president to have crossed lines. President Dwight Eisenhower leaked the jobs report ahead of time, right before Election Day in 1954, 1956 and 1958.


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