Trump Authorizes Release of JFK Assassination Documents

President Donald Trump revealed in a tweet on Saturday that he plans to release thousands of the “long-blocked and classified” files pertaining to President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination, in a move to improve government transparency.

On Friday, Politico reported that Trump was “almost certain” to block the release of thousands of pages of classified documents pertaining to Kennedy’s Nov. 22, 1963, assassination in Dallas, Texas, citing anonymous “Trump administration and other government officials.” Politico emphasized that the government had concerns over the release of some of the documents because several were created relatively recently, in the 1990s. The National Archives is scheduled to release the documents by an October 26 deadline.

In a tweet on Saturday morning, Trump wrote: "Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened."

Congress passed the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act in 1992, stipulating that all documents related to Kennedy's assassination were to be released within a 25-year timeframe — unless the president at the time deemed such release to jeopardize U.S. intelligence agencies and their operations. Of the files scheduled for release, more than 3,000 have never been released publicly while over 30,000 had been released with significant redactions. The law was originally intended to put a stop to the rampant conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination.

Trump reportedly fielded pressure from both the CIA and the FBI to block the release of the previously classified and redacted documents. But pending "the receipt of further information," the president appears poised to side with the public's right to know over the agencies.

"If there is not full disclosure of the documents, I would be very disappointed," Judge John R. Tunheim, the federal judge who led the Assassination Records Review Board created by the 1992 law, told Politico. "The time for full disclosure has long since passed."

"It seems hard to believe that a 1990s intelligence operation is still something that's going on today and needs to be protected," he added.

"There could be some jewels in there because ... our level of knowledge in the 1990s is maybe different from today,"Tunheim told the Associated Press.

Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center of Politics and author of "The Kennedy Half-Century" book, told the Associated Press that "the American public deserves to know the facts, or at least they deserve to know what the government has kept hidden from them for all these years."

Some members of Congress had weighed in on the controversy as well, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

In a series of tweets on October 4, Grassley wrote, "25 yrs ago [Congress] said all gov records abt JFK assassination shld b released this month unless Pres blocks No reason 2 keep hidden anymore ... 2day I [introduced] resolution urging Pres Trump 2 allow full release of docs Time 2 let American ppl + historians draw own conclusions ... a real problem in gov't is over classification Transparency in gov't brings acctblty Resolutions like this help."

Many historians and scholars hope the documents will shed a light on assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's visit to Mexico City just weeks before Kennedy was assassinated. During that time, he visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies, and the classified documents are expected to provide further information about those trips and the United States' surveillance of those two embassies.

Philip Shenon, a former New York Times reporter who wrote a book about the assassination, speculated to the AP that "Oswald might have had a clear motive, one that we have never really understood for killing Kennedy, because he thought that by killing Kennedy he might be saving the life of Fidel Castro."

Long-time Trump friend and confidant Roger Stone praised the president for his decision Saturday, tweeting, "Congratulations to on his decision to release the JFK files - Transparency Matters !"

The AP reported that the FBI declined to comment on Trump's tweet, although a CIA spokeswoman said the agency "continues to engage in the process to determine the appropriate next steps with respect to any previously-unreleased CIA information."

(photo credit, homepage image: President and Mrs. Kennedy in motorcade ..., CC BY-SA 3.0, by Abbie Rowe, National Park Service)

Last Modified: November 21, 2017, 12:53 pm

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