White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who is already under fire for his dissembling on the role of former campaign manager Paul Manafort, seemed flustered when responding to a question about the White House using federal money to lobby for the American Health Care Act, which could be illegal.
The controversy stems from tweets sent by both President Donald Trump's official White House Twitter account and the Twitter account of his social media director Dan Scavino Jr.
When asked about whether these tweets violated federal laws, Spicer told reporters "it is not… the president… it doesn’t… that is not applicable to the president, no."
Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, told ThinkProgress that "based on the letter of the law, the lobbying provision would apply to the White House and any White House official. Any lobbying for the health care bill violates that ban."
Spicer rebutted the notion that Trump had violated the Anti-Lobbying Act, which does not allow federal money to be used "to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation." Because the Department of Justice believes it doesn't apply to "public speeches or public writings of federal executive branch officials," Trump's tweets could in theory be exonerated. That said, the appropriations bill which funds the White House communications operations (along with all other appropriations bills) also prohibit their use for "publicity or propaganda" regarding impending legislation. This explicitly includes film presentations like the one included in the tweet from Trump's presidential account.