WASHINGTON — Have a comment for President Trump?
Previously, citizens with a gripe or praise could pick up the phone. Not now.
Since at least the end of the Obama administration, the White House’s phone line for comments has not been taking calls. It is unclear exactly when the line was closed, and it is equally unclear when it will be back.
“The comment line is currently closed, but your comment is important to the president and we urge you to send us a comment online,” a recording says. “Or send us a message through Facebook messenger.”
The recording does not specify how to contact the administration on Facebook.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment, though a press assistant told the Los Angeles Times on Monday the comment line would return but did not specify a timetable.
“We’re still learning how to work our computers,” press assistant Giovanna Coia said.
Since he has assumed office, Trump has emphasized connecting with and empowering the American people.
“Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning,” he said in his inaugural address. “Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another — but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American people.”
But, some experts say the lack of a comment line is another example of diminishing accountability under the new administration.
“Right now, we’re seeing a really sharp decrease in the government’s accountability to the public,” said Robert Galbraith, a senior research analyst at the Public Accountability Initiative. “From the freeze of communications from crucial regulatory agencies to the public to the threat of kicking the press pool out of the White House itself, I think all of these things are a signal that the Trump administration is sending that they don’t hold accountability to the American people.”
As the administration enacts a wide range of policy reforms in the first 100 days, there should be ample avenues for citizens to communicate with the White House, said Lisa Gilbert, the director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.
“In the pursuit of openness and transparency, there should be as many conduits as possible for the public to reach out directly, and this is one of those access points so we hope it’s reopened as quickly as possible and they don’t deprioritize it.”
Tyler Pager can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.