It was a federal rule implemented under the Reagan administration. It required that the executive branch had to wait an hour before commenting on jobs and unemployment numbers. The intent behind the rule was to separate the ostensibly non-partisan Labor Department from the partisan executive branch.
(d) In all cases, prerelease access shall precede the official release time only to the extent necessary for an orderly review of the data.
All employees of the Executive Branch who receive prerelease distribution of information and data estimates as authorized above are responsible for assuring that there is no release prior to the official release time. Except for members of the staff of the agency issuing the principal economic indicator who have been designated by the agency head to provide technical explanations of the data, employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.
Announced in the Federal Register on Sept. 25, 1985, when Ronald Reagan was president, the rule was adopted “to preserve the distinction between the policy-neutral release of data by statistical agencies and their interpretation by policy officials,” and to avoid affecting “financial and commodity markets,” according to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, part of the Office of Management and Budget.
The jobs numbers were made public and released to the press by the Department of Labor on Friday morning at 8:30, and according to the rule, the executive branch was supposed to wait an hour before saying anything about them. But the President tweeted out at 8:41 a.m. a headline from the Drudge Report that read “GREAT AGAIN: +235,000.”
And then the press secretary Sean Spicer followed up at 8:52 with a comment:
Great news for American workers: economy added 235,000 new jobs, unemployment rate drops to 4.7% in first report for @POTUS Trump
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 10, 2017
Mike Pence also followed up with similar tweets.
I understand the rationale of the rule, and while some may argue that it’s silly, it’s still in the federal register. But it’s not a rule with any teeth. There’s no penalty for breaking the rule.
Spicer was confronted about this egregious rule violation. “Don’t make me make the podium move,” Spicer joked, referencing the parodied version of himself on Saturday Night Live. It also helped to lighten the mood:
I do admire the press’s grave concerns about making sure the Trump administration adheres to all the rules. I just wonder where they were the last eight years while President Obama and his team were breaking not just silly rules, but violating the document that actually matters, the U.S. Constitution.
Read this for starters: Top 10 Ways Obama Violated the Constitution during His Presidency