The White House deleted a tweet Wednesday crediting President Joe Biden's leadership for a large increase in Social Security benefits that was actually an automatically triggered cost-of-living increase tied to inflation and based on a 1972 law. In doing so, it may have violated the Presidential Records Act, according to a government watchdog group.
In a Friday letter to U.S. National Archives Records Administration head Debra Wall and Attorney General Merrick Garland, among others, Protect the Public's Trust, a nonpartisan group, said it is calling for a federal investigation regarding the now-deleted tweet based on the same laws that caused Garland and the FBI to execute a search warrant on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this year.
"Maintaining and preserving all official records pursuant to the Presidential Records Act is an important duty that is the responsibility of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration," the letter read. "Outside of the unprecedented reliance on the Act to support a subpoena to search the home of a former U.S. President, the Act and its enforcement have historically received little attention.
"However, now that strict enforcement of the Act appears to be a high priority for the Archivist of the United States, and by extension the Department of Justice, we would like to bring to your attention a matter of serious concern as it applies to preserving the historical record of President Joseph Biden."
On Tuesday, the White House posted on Twitter: "Seniors are getting the biggest increase in their Social Security checks in 10 years through President Biden's leadership."
Users on the site quickly debunked the claim, and Twitter noted alongside the tweet that the increase was triggered automatically from a law signed by former Republican President Richard Nixon, tying benefit increases to the consumer price index.
Shortly thereafter, the White House deleted the tweet.
In its letter the group said the deletion runs afoul of the Presidential Records Act, which requires 60-day written notice to the Archives before any presidential record is destroyed.
"Presidential records may be disposed of if the president submits copies of the intended disposal schedule at least 60 calendar days before the proposed disposal date to the statutorily specified committees (44 U.S.C. §2203(d)). Further, in the event of improper removal or disposal, an investigation must be conducted," the group said, citing the federal law in the letter.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the reason for the deletion was that the tweet was "incomplete."
"The tweet was not complete," she said during a White House press briefing. "Usually when we put out a tweet, we post it with context; and it did not have that context."
Despite the reason, the group's director said in the letter that the protocols in place for a document's destruction must be followed.
"Whether the deleted post was an effort to boost the political prospects of those associated with the president's political party, mal-information that could constitute an attack on America's democratic institutions, or simply an ill-conceived self-promotion effort, the deletion of a public and official presidential record must still follow the destruction process laid out under the Act," Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust wrote. "This is true regardless of whether the record was 'incomplete' in providing the context to achieve its desired objective."
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