Trump signals jobs data before report’s release, breaking with protocol
President Trump on Friday touted the monthly federal jobs report roughly an hour before the data was released, a breach with decades of protocol that could lead to accusations he was sending a signal to traders.
Trump in a 7:21 a.m. tweet wrote that he was “looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the highly anticipated data on schedule at 8:30 a.m. It was a strong report, showing the economy added 223,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent.
A federal rule states that federal workers should not comment on the jobs report until an hour after it has been released, though administration officials have in the past made comments before that hour was up.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNBC that Trump’s tweet was appropriate because he did not “put the numbers out,” but confirmed the president was briefed on the report Thursday night.
Top economic adviser Larry Kudlow also defended the tweet, telling reporters that “no one revealed the numbers to the public” so it didn’t violate federal guidelines.
Kudlow said he informed Trump of the job report on Thursday night. He declined to say whether he would do so again.
“I make a call whether to let him know or not, and it just so happened last evening, I let him know,” he said.
Asked whether Trump would preview the numbers in the future, Kudlow said “it’s up to him. He likes to tweet.”
As a result, Trump’s tweet, which appeared to signal the report would be positive even if it did not include any numbers, led to immediate criticism.
Jason Furman, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) under President Obama, responded to Trump “if this tweet is conveying inside information about a particularly good jobs number you should never get them in advance from the [CEA] again.”
Austan Goolsbee, another former CEA chair under Obama, tweeted, “If the president just tipped that the numbers are good, he broke the law.”
“It’s classified information,” Goolsbee added. “The CEA gets the number the day before and even internally can only discuss the info on an encrypted line before release.”
Ari Fleischer, a former spokesman for the White House under President George W. Bush, tweeted that sharing the information was a “no-no.”
This certainly was a no-no. The advance info is sacrosanct – not to be shared. https://t.co/FjxVKklRSH
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) June 1, 2018
The president in August 2017 touted the July report on Twitter roughly 15 minutes after the data had been publicized.
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer also broke the rule in March of that year by tweeting praise for the February jobs report, Trump’s first as president.
Spicer later apologized and said while he understood the purpose of the rule, his tweet didn’t impact markets because the data had already been released.
“I apologize if we were a little excited, and we’re so excited to see so many Americans back to work,” Spicer said at the time.
But providing information on a jobs report before its release would be considered a much more serious violation.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers in a tweet said it would have led to a major investigation under past administrations.
If during the Clinton or Obama Administrations there had been a statement from @POTUS or anyone senior official in the morning before the Employment Report it would have been a major scandal—with all sorts of investigations following on.
— Lawrence H. Summers (@LHSummers) June 1, 2018
– Jordan Fabian contributed. Updated at 10:32 a.m.