A former director of the U.S. National Economic Council sent a memo to lawmakers on Saturday advising them to not echo President Donald Trump’s tweet that suggests the national debt is down during his first month.
Keith Hennessey, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote in his memo to Congress that Trump was technically correct that the national debt decreased by $19.6 billion from Jan. 20 to Feb. 23. Hennessey, however, added that if Trump had “ended his timeframe one day earlier this tweet would have been invalid and debt would have increased” by $1 billion in “the first month.” He said this is why “analysts look at debt on an annual basis.”
Hennessey said it looked as if Trump got his numbers from Herman Cain, who appeared on “Fox & Friends Weekend” shortly before Trump’s tweet.
“Because of his unique communications advantages, President Trump may be able to get away with making an argument with such a weak foundation,” Hennessey wrote. “You cannot, and you should not place yourself in the position of having to address the intellectual weaknesses described above. “
Hennessey also noted that former President Barack Obama signed a stimulus package the first month during his presidency and that there was a big difference in the health of the economy in 2009 to 2017.
The former NEC director also wrote that it was “more concerning” that the tweet shows Trump continues to rely on TV rather than his advisers.
“Until his staff figure out a way to ensure he doesn’t make such easily rebutted claims, you should not echo the president’s economic arguments or claims without first verifying both their accuracy and substantive merit,” Hennessey wrote. “This unfortunate situation will persist as long as President Trump continues to take his numbers and policy arguments from TV pundits rather than from Mr. Cohn, Director Mulvaney, and Secretary Mnuchin.”
On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted: “The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo.”