While Trump has likely violated the Act by deleting tweets, the issue is only a matter of paperwork, not a crime.
“The Act does not create a mechanism for someone to go into court,” says Scott Nelson, an attorney who handles government litigation, “and enforce it against the President.”
The top federal court in Washington, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled in 1991 that judges cannot review the President’s decision to follow or ignore the Records Act.
Finding in favor of President George H.W. Bush, the court found Congress drafted the law in a way that made it “one of the rare statutes” that simply prevents judges from enforcing it.
Constitutional law professor Michael Gerhardt stressed that any archival problems associated with deleting tweets are fixed by the medium itself.
“Whatever harm arises from this is not particularly significant, because it’s all happening in public,” Gerhardt said.
“The concern behind the Presidential Records Act has to do with communications made by the president that are not archived,” said Gerhardt, who served as counsel to Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy when he chaired the Judiciary Committee.
Other experts cast the topic as an issue for history books, not legal compliance.
Some tweets “may seem utterly trivial,” notes Nelson, an attorney who has represented a president and members of Congress. “But from a historical standpoint, that the president on a particular day was so exercised about a particular subject,” he said, “that is a matter of historical interest.”
Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law professor at the University of California Los Angeles who has been blogging since 2002, suggested the interest in Trump’s tweets will only grow as he forges new ways to address the nation. “FDR was known to have pioneered these fireside chats,” Volokh says, “and Trump is now doing fireside tweets.”