By Tom Ozimek
A watchdog group that seeks to hold government officials accountable has called for an investigation into whether a recent tweet posted by the White House Twitter account was later deleted illegally.
Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT), which seeks to expose “the self-dealing and conflicts of interest, and the improper and illegal behavior of senior officials,” issued a statement on Friday demanding a probe into whether deletion of the tweet ran afoul of the Presidential Records Act (PRA), which prohibits the unauthorized destruction of government and presidential records.
“Enforcement of public records laws, such as FOIA, is virtually impossible if records retention policies are not enforced, including those covering social media,” Michael Chamberlain, PPT director, said in the statement.
The controversy centers on a Nov. 1 tweet posted—and later deleted—by the White House after it was fact-checked for making a context-lacking claim about the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) that was recently announced.
“Seniors are getting the biggest increase in their Social Security checks in 10 years through President Biden’s leadership,” the now-deleted White House Twitter post said.
The post failed to mention, however, that the COLA adjustment was due to inflation that’s running close to a 40-year high.
Federal law requires annual COLA adjustments, which are calculated based on the rate of inflation rather than presidential policies.
Twitter added “context” under the White House post, writing that seniors will get a “large Social Security benefit increase due to the annual cost of living adjustment, which is based on the inflation rate,” while providing a link to the Social Security Administration’s website.
Asked about the deletion of the tweet, a White House official told The Epoch Times via an earlier email that “the point was incomplete,” adding that a recent statement by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre provided the full context.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the PPT’s request for an investigation.
‘Policies Must Be Enforced Equally’
Besides calling for a probe, the watchdog group also penned a letter (pdf) to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), asking whether the White House followed the law in deleting the tweet.
“While personal records are exempt from the preservation requirements, the Nov. 1 tweet on the official White House account is almost certainly a record that belongs to the public and subject to the Act’s destruction protocols,” the watchdog group wrote.
“Subsequent explanations provided by White House officials raise concerns over whether the appropriate retention process was adhered to or whether authorization to destroy an official record was received prior to the Presidential record being permanently destroyed, as required by law,” PPT added.
The watchdog also asked NARA to provide documents related to the deletion of the tweet, including a possible letter authorizing the destruction of the tweet or an explanation why it may not have been subject to preservation as an official public record.
“If the American public is going to trust its government, these policies must be enforced equally, regardless of who is in power, and skirting the requirements to avoid embarrassment or political backlash must not be seen as legitimate justifications,” Chamberlain said in a statement.
Republican lawmakers reacted with criticism to the since-deleted White House Twitter post.
“Next year’s Social Security increase will be one of the largest in decades [because] of Biden’s disastrous policies, which have caused prices to rise, fueled record inflation, & cut it into critical retirement savings,” wrote Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) on Twitter in response to the post.
“Biden social media geniuses are giving Biden credit for the biggest Social Security COLA in 10 years, but neglect to mention that SS COLA is an automatic formula based on government inflation metric (CPI),” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) added on the platform.
The Social Security Administration announced on Oct. 13 that the COLA boost would be 8.7 percent due to decades-high inflation.
Checks that are scheduled to go out in January 2023 will see the COLA bump.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.