Three Democratic senators want federal regulators to investigate whether there was any manipulation in financial markets after President Trump’s tweet last week suggesting a strong jobs report was about to be released.
“President Trump recklessly violated federal rules and years of precedent by telegraphing financial data that has the power to move our markets,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who joined with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to send letters to regulators and administration officials.
“The Trump administration is swarming with people who have secret financial holdings and conflicts of interest a mile long,” she said Friday.
Warren called for officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to “investigate to make sure that no one obtained and used non-public information to feather their own nest.”
Trump broke longstanding protocol — and a 1985 White House directive — by publicly commenting on the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report on June 1 about an hour before its official release.
“Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning,” Trump tweeted at 7:21 a.m. Eastern time. Trump, who learned of the data the previous night, had never tweeted ahead of a jobs report before.
Trump’s decision to do so last week led people to assume the figures would be better than expected. They were correct. The report showed the economy added 223,000 net new jobs in May, well above analyst expectations of 190,000.
“The market reacted immediately — yields on the 10-year Treasury note, the dollar index and stock futures all increased following the president’s tweet,” the senators wrote about Trump’s tweet in a joint letter to SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo.
“We are concerned in particular that the president or White House staff may have disclosed the pre-release data beyond the very small group authorized to see them before their official publication,” they wrote.
“The numerous conflicts of interest in the financial holdings of the president and other high-level White House staffers, and their continued secrecy about these holdings heightens our concern about insiders obtaining or using information,” the senators said.
The letter was dated Wednesday and released Friday.
Spokeswomen for the SEC and CFTC declined to comment.
The senators also wrote to Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and William J. Wiatrowski, the acting commissioner of the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, asking for details on how the jobs report and other “market-moving economic data” are handled.
A Labor Department spokesperson said the statistics bureau follows the 1985 White House directive and “consistent with that directive, no information or data estimates were released before the official release time” last week. A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said last week that Hassett had provided him with the jobs report data on May 31 after receiving it early, as is custom. Kudlow decided to tell Trump that evening.
“I tracked him down on Air Force One. I wanted him to know the numbers,” Kudlow said on CNBC last week. “He chose to tweet.”
The White House Office of Management and Budget’s Statistical Policy Directive No. 3 says that executive branch officials “shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time.”
Part of the intent is to “prevent early access to information that may affect financial and commodity markets, and preserve the distinction between the policy-neutral release of data by statistical agencies and their interpretation by policy officials.”
Kudlow said that Trump didn’t violate the directive because he only said he was awaiting the release of the numbers and didn’t provide any details.
But the senators told regulators that Trump’s tweet “clearly implied” that the jobs data surpassed market expectations.
“If the president cannot muster the discipline to refrain from blurting out information like this, he should no longer have access to it in advance,” Bennet said.