But he has the authority, and a little bit of time, to block their release.
“Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened,” he wrote.
Under the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act passed in 1992, the government is scheduled to release thousands of never-before-seen documents related to JFK’s assassination — unless they’re blocked by the president, who can cite national security concerns and prevent their release. Assuming Trump does not change his mind, the documents are currently slated for release by this Thursday, October 26. The president can also decide to redact portions of what’s released.
Trump used ambiguous language in his tweet, suggesting that he’s likely to allow the files’ release, but his decision is contingent on the “receipt of further information.”
The information he’s referring to is likely the assessment by various agencies in the intelligence community on whether or not the documents should be held back or at least partially redacted.
Since the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act was passed in 1992, the government has released millions of pages of previously classified documents under the act’s mandate, some of them partially redacted. The documents due out on October 26 comprise the last batch of them.
Some of those documents, which are held by the National Archives and Records Administration, are CIA and FBI files. Earlier in October, the CIA told CNN that it was conducting a review “to determine the appropriate next steps with respect to any previously-unreleased CIA information.”
An unnamed National Security Council official told the Washington Post in the days leading up to Trump’s tweet that some government agencies are advising Trump against releasing the documents in full.
Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime political adviser, has said that he’s encouraged Trump to release the full trove of documents and referred to Trump as his “hero” for tweeting plans to allow their release. Stone is a conspiracy theorist who wrote a book arguing that Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s vice president, was involved in Kennedy’s assassination.
At least two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, have also pushed the president to release the documents in full. “No reason 2 keep hidden anymore,” Grassley tweeted on October 4, objecting to what he refers to as a problem of “over classification” in government.
According to the Washington Post, experts on Kennedy’s assassination don’t expect the remaining documents to contain any wild revelations, but believe they will likely shed light on details like Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s activities while in Mexico City in 1963, and his efforts to engage with Cuban and Soviet intelligence.
A complete disclosure may also help dispel the persistent conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination — including one that is seemingly harbored by the president himself.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being — you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”
The report Trump was referring to was apparently a claim in the tabloid the National Enquirer. Time will tell, come Thursday, if Trump believes the American public deserves to know as much as the government does about what happened.