A Friday morning tweet from President Donald Trump previewing the May jobs report is raising alarm bells among some economists and former government employees as to whether he may have violated longstanding government protocol.
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The president’s tweet at 7:21 a.m. read, “Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning,” previewing what turned out to be a report that exceeded economists’ expectations.
Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2018
The May jobs report showed the U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs compared with an average monthly gain of 191,000 over the prior 12 months, and that the unemployment rate edged down to an 18-year low of 3.8 percent.
According to a Labor Department rule issued by the Office of Management and Budget in 1985, executive branch employees are barred from publicly commenting on the jobs report until “at least one hour” after its official release. The rule looks to prevent government officials who may gain early access to the report from tipping off traders in advance of potential market shifts.
Early on in the administration, former press secretary Sean Spicer drew criticism for tweeting immediate reaction to a positive jobs report, violating the standard one hour time span.
But the president is typically briefed separately on the report prior before its release.
Speaking to reporters ahead of his departure for Texas on Thursday, Trump spoke glowingly about the “best unemployment we’ve had in many, many decades,” though it’s unclear if he was just speaking generally about the state of the economy or was speaking specifically to the content of the May report.
In an interview with CNBC, Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow said he briefed President Trump personally on the jobs report Thursday evening after receiving the report from chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Kevin Hassett.
“He chose to tweet, his tweet basically said like everybody else we await the job numbers,” Kudlow said. “I don’t he gave anything away incidentally. I think it’s according to routine.”
Former chairman for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman told ABC News the Obama administration “absolutely interpreted [the Labor Department rule] as applying” to the president himself.
“On a few occasions his schedule was shifted around to abide by the rule,” Furman said, noting that in one instance the White House delayed an Air Force One departure for President Obama until after 9:30 a.m. in order for the communications staff to be able to put out a statement at the right time.
“Regardless, rule or not, stating the jobs numbers in advance is crazy,” Furman said. “And how sure are we that he only tells the public and not his friends when he talks to them late at night?”