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Donald Trump's preview of jobless report draws criticism

04 June 2018
Donald Trump's preview of jobless report draws criticism

The president received the jobs report on Thursday night on Air Force One.

That's what happened Friday morning when President Donald Trump tweeted a big hint about the monthly employment numbers, one of the most closely watched pieces of government data.

The federal jobs data that the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases on the first Friday of each month at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time the next morning.

President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail to bring real life back to the American economy, and if May's jobs report is any indication of his work almost 18 months into office, Trump has certainly succeeded. He too would have been excited, as he was the 13 times I briefed him on a number that came in even higher than the 223,000 jobs added last month. Black and Hispanic unemployment, declining figures Trump regularly touts, plummeted to record lows. "I don't he gave anything away incidentally". After Trump's tweet, the two-year Treasury yield climbed one basis point, while the dollar stayed flat.

In tweeting about the report when he did, Trump violated a long-standing prohibition against executive branch officials publicly commenting on the report before its official release or within an hour afterward.

"All employees of the Executive Branch who receive prerelease distribution of information and data estimates. are responsible for assuring that there is no release prior to the official release time", the directive said.

The objective of the rule should be self-evident.

For decades, federal officials have taken great care to prevent providing any early indications to investors about monthly jobs report data that can move markets.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara appeared to call for a congressional inquiry into the tweet, saying lawmakers had "the constitutional authority to investigate". "What is important is not just that the numbers are independent, but that they're perceived to be independent". It's because of this that the rule was adopted in the first place.

Journalists get an early look at the report the morning of its release in a special room at the Labor Department with no internet or cellphone access to prevent any news coming out before the official release time.

Larry Summers, the Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and director of the National Economic Council under Obama, said a similar statement under those Democratic presidents "would have been a major scandal - with all sorts of investigations following on". All of these people, including the President are governed by the same rule. We then would have waited until 9:30 a.m. Friday to share our enthusiasm, and the news, with the public.

The report showed the American economy is growing toward a very prosperous future.

"He simply ignored the wall", New York University presidential historian Timothy Naftali said of Trump's post Friday. "No one revealed any numbers".

President Trump's enthusiastic tweet before the release of Friday's jobs report may have breached a rule created to safeguard and depoliticize market-moving financial data issued by the federal government.

Jacob Frenkel, a former SEC enforcement attorney, said protocol, practice and tradition, no matter how long in existence, "are not laws or regulations". There's something truly disconcerting about that.