Donald Trump’s “covfefe” tweet was already an embarrassment. But it might also be breaking the law.
The president has deleted the now infamous tweet, five hours after it was posted. It only read “Despite the constant negative press covfefe” – a gnomic post that brought confusion and memes as people attempted to work out what he was saying.
Now – a mere five hours and 126,000 retweets after posting it – Mr Trump has apparently confirmed that the post was a mistake by removing it from the site.
But that might make the president’s fortunes even worse. Some have suggested that Mr Trump isn’t actually allowed to remove his posts at all, because doing so violates laws that require records to be kept of the president’s communications.
The National Archives has instructed the White House that it needs to keep a record of everything Mr Trump posts, even if he then goes on to the delete the posts. The organisation said in a letter to senators in March that it had told the Trump team that it needs to “capture and preserve all tweets that the President posts… including those that are subsequently deleted”.
What does ‘covfefe’ actually mean?
But responsibility for actually doing so relies on the president, and the National Archives and other bodies that catalogue presidential communications are unable to compel him to prove that he’s done so. The White House has claimed that the deleted tweets are being recorded, but it hasn’t proved that publicly.
The “cofveve” tweet was far from the first to be deleted from Mr Trump’s account. He regularly removes posts that include typos, misspellings or mistakes – though they are usually re-posted after they have been corrected.
At the time of publishing, Mr Trump hasn’t posted a corrected version of the tweet. It has been speculated that it may have sent it before going to sleep at midnight, and then deleted it when he woke up again around 5am – the time when his earliest tweets usually start to be sent.
It’s not clear that the tweet was deleted by Mr Trump himself or by a member of his staff.