The Department of Justice is treating President Trump’s frequent Twitter posts as official statements, attorneys for the government wrote in a new federal court filing.
Justice Department lawyers qualified the president’s tweets in an eight-page submission entered in D.C. federal court Monday after U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta asked the government earlier this month for clarification concerning Mr. Trump’s Twitter musings.
“The Court has asked, broadly, about the official status of the President’s tweets … asking the parties to ‘provide insight on … the President’s tweets and what they are, how official they are, are they statements of the White House and the President,’ ” Justice Department attorneys wrote Monday citing a Nov. 2 status conference hearing.
“In answer to the Court’s question, the government is treating the President’s statements to which plaintiffs point — whether by tweet, speech or interview — as official statements of the President of the United States,” the Justice Department responded.
The request came amid a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit initiated in January surrounding the salacious so-called “Steele dossier” detailing Mr. Trump’s alleged ties to Russia leaked earlier that month. Politico reporter Josh Gernstein and the James Madison Project government accountability group sued the Justice Department, CIA, the Office of Director of National Intelligence and the Pentagon on Jan. 23. after the agencies stonewalled their requests for records related to the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and a related two-page synopsis.
“This lawsuit ultimately will seek to secure not only a copy of the two page synopsis, but will also flesh out the extent to which the Intelligence Community had investigated the veracity (or lack thereof) of the claims in the 35 page dossier prior to creating the two page synopsis,” attorney Bradley Moss wrote for the plaintiffs in the original complaint.
While the government has refused to confirm or deny the existence of any records responsive to the request, the plaintiffs argued that Mr. Trump’s recent tweets calling the dossier “discredited” and “fake” suggested the defendent agencies have determined as much.
“Plaintiffs’ argument is without merit,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler wrote in response. “The government is treating the statements upon which plaintiffs rely as official statements of the President of the United States, but nothing in the statements states or even implies that ODNI, the CIA, NSA or the FBI has made a final determination as to the veracity of any factual allegation allegedly contained in the two-page synopsis.”
“The Court cannot assume that the President was expressing a view based on ‘some knowledge and understanding’ provided by these agencies” when he called the dossier discredited, Mr. Readler wrote.
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in June that Mr. Trump’s tweets are “considered official statements of the presidents. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, meanwhile, reportedly told journalists over the weekend that he doesn’t allow his staffers to read Mr. Trump’s tweets.
“Someone, I read the other day, said we all just react to the tweets,” Mr. Kelly said Sunday, The Los Angeles Times reported.
“We don’t. I don’t. I don’t allow the staff to. We know what we’re doing,” Mr. Kelly said. “Believe it or not, I do not follow the tweets.”