President Trump announced Saturday morning that he planned to release the tens of thousands of never-before-seen documents left in the files related to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination held by the National Archives and Records Administration.
“Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened,” Trump tweeted early Saturday.
Kennedy assassination experts have been speculating for weeks about whether Trump would disclose the documents. The 1992 Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act required that the millions of pages — many of them contained in CIA and FBI documents — be published in 25 years, by Oct. 26. Over the years, the National Archives has released most of the documents, either in full or partially redacted.
But one final batch remains, and only the president has the authority to extend the papers’ secrecy past the October deadline. In his tweet, Trump seemed to strongly imply he was going to release all the remaining documents. But he also hedged, suggesting that if, between now and Oct. 26, other government agencies made a strong case not to release the documents, he wouldn’t. Also, Trump was unclear about whether he would publish all of the documents in full or with some of them redacted.
In the days leading up to Trump’s tweet, a National Security Council official told The Washington Post that government agencies were urging the president not to release some of the documents. But Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars this week that he personally lobbied Trump to publish all of the documents.
Stone also told Jones that CIA Director Mike Pompeo “has been lobbying the president furiously not to release these documents.”
Though Kennedy assassination experts say they don’t think the last batch of papers contains any major bombshells, the president’s decision to release the documents could heighten the clarity around the assassination, which has fueled so many conspiracy theorists, including Trump himself.
In May 2016, while on the presidential campaign trail, Trump gave an interview to Fox News strongly accusing the father of his GOP primaries opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, of consorting with Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald right before the shooting.
The assassination experts do suspect the papers will shed light on the activities of Oswald while he was traveling in Mexico City in late September 1963 and courting Cuban and Soviet spies.
Phil Shenon, who wrote a book about the Warren Commission, the congressional body that investigated Kennedy’s killing, said he was pleased with Trump’s decision. But he wonders to what degree the papers will ultimately be released.
“It’s great news that the president is focused on this and that he’s trying to demonstrate transparency. But the question remains whether he will open the library in full — every word in every document, as the law requires,” Shenon said. “And my understanding is that he won’t without infuriating people at the CIA and elsewhere who are determined to keep at least some of the information secret, especially in documents created in the 1990s.”
Jefferson Morley, a former Post reporter who has studied the Kennedy assassination records for years, said the last tranche of material is also intriguing because it contains files on senior CIA officials from the 1960s — officers well aware of Oswald’s activities in the days before the assassination.
On Saturday morning, Stone, the Trump confidant, was rejoicing on Twitter.