Press Secretary Sean Spicer Might Have Broken a Federal Rule in a Tweet

March 10th 2017

Mike Rothschild

On Friday morning, the United States Department of Labor released its first jobs report encompassing a full month of the Trump administration. Given the scandals trailing the Trump administration, the generally positive report was unsurprisingly embraced by his team as a big win. 

Press Secretary Sean Spicer jubilantly took to Twitter to announce an uptick in jobs with an enthusiasm that was typical of Trump's supporters. 

Except that in his rush to celebrate, Spicer might have broken a federal rule meant to "preserve the neutrality and objectivity of the statistics." As the New York Times pointed out, the tweet, "posted 22 minutes after the Labor Department report, may have violated a federal rule barring executive branch employees from publicly commenting on principal economic indicators for at least one hour after the official release time."

The one-hour rule, known officially as "Statistical Policy Directive No. 3," was a Reagan-era addition to the Federal Register, and according to the Times, was intended to "preserve the distinction between the policy-neutral release of data by statistical agencies and their interpretation by policy officials" and "avoid effecting financial and commodity markets."

The incident is another in a monthly cycle of politicization that has taken over the DOL jobs report. 

Job numbers that were routinely being slammed by Trump and other Republican leaders as fake and indicative that President Barack Obama's economic policies were failing are now being celebrated as triumphs of renewed economic growth under Trump. In one example, Huffington Post politics editor Sam Stein contrasted a February 2016 press release from House Ways and Means Committee Chair, Texas Republican Kevin Brady, that called growth of 242,000 jobs "disappointing" and Brady's press release from today, which lauded a "great report" that actually added fewer jobs.

Even Trump himself has dismissed past positive jobs reports as being based on "phony" data. 

There will likely be no consequence to Spicer violating the rule, and at a subsequent press conference, he laughed it off. "I apologize if we’re a little excited and we’re so glad to see so many fellow Americans back at work," he said.