What is the legal status of Trump's tweets?

If there’s a previous GQ thread about this, please link to it.

As we all know, Trump tweets a lot, and does so almost exclusively through his personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump. Many of his tweets, if they’d been executive memoranda, would have been documents that set policy for his Administration. (And were probably contradicted by other tweets.)

There’s a natural tendency to say, “oh, he’s just running his [del]mouth[/del] tiny fingers off, his tweets don’t really mean anything.” But then there’s this:

And he did so via @realDonaldTrump.


  1. Is there some sort of overarching Administration document that gives official guidance regarding the extent to which Trump’s tweets are official communications, or merely unofficial blowing off of steam?

  2. If the answer to (1) is ‘no’, is there some sort of consistent legal theory and treatment of his tweets that helps his subordinates determine whether or not they’ve been given directives?

  3. Has Whitaker officially been appointed? IOW, does Trump’s tweet suffice to appoint Whitaker? (Let’s leave questions about the legality and/or Constitutionality of his appointment out of this, though.)

3a) Is the absence of an effective date of Whitaker’s appointment a problem? This is really a separate issue, but I’m curious about it. The text of the tweet:

The “will become” isn’t exactly what you’d call precise. There’s a searchable archive of Trump’s tweets, and (assuming its database is complete and its search engine works properly) Whitaker is named in only two subsequent tweets. One is the “I did not know Mr. Whitaker” tweet (which makes no reference of his new role) and the other also uses the future tense: “I feel certain he will make an outstanding Acting Attorney General!” rather than “he is an outstanding Acting Attorney General!” So even if we assume Trump’s tweet is an official proclamation, is Whitaker the acting AG?

  1. If his appointment by tweet is an official act, what are the legal implications for Trump’s tweets in general?

We really needed to remove him from office as soon as he tweeted unpresidentially. I have been wondering about the legal status of this stuff too.

Because we didn’t and he was such a new shiny object to the media, a little louis the 14th sun king, now we are so awash in nonsense that even we are beginning to doubt that it has to be done right now. WTF!

drad dog, this is General Questions, and the OP asked a factual question. This is not the place for sharing your opinions on those facts. Stick to the facts, please, and if you wish to discuss your own opinions, do so in a different thread, in the appropriate forum.

My WAG on these questions is:

  1. No

  2. No

  3. Yes/no

  4. Same implications as whatever emanates from other orifices in the physical domain.

There may not have been an ‘official statement’, but somewhere some paperwork had to have been done that the public may not have seen. The people who cut paychecks, for example, aren’t going to start paying him more because of a tweet.

There’s a lot of information in this thread - https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=828038

I don’t know if there’s been an appeal of the lawsuit, but at the time of the ruling Trump’s Twitter account was considered a public forum.

Is a formal written statement required for an appointment? If so, cite? If not, POTUS’ tweet about such appointment could be considered just commentary about his appointment.

The DOJ has said this:

(emphasis added)

Court filing (PDF) and ABA article from last year.

Thanks, jasg!

So 1=yes, 2=N/A, 3=yes, 4=covered by #1.

That seems to answer the main question, leaving only my residual curiosity per 3a, the absence of an effective date, and all known references to his service as acting AG referring to the future.

My problems with this are twofold: first, this isn’t a particularly organized Administration. It’s entirely believable that such paperwork hasn’t been filed.

But a deeper problem is, I’m suspicious of the notion that a high official such as this can be appointed and the germane details, like what office is he filling, and beginning on what date, not be public. The public has to know who has what authority.

I could be wrong on that - as Neil Young says, I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be there again.