Trump allows release of most (but not all) remaining Kennedy assassination files
By NBC News
President John F. Kennedy's motorcade in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Newseum / PRNewsfoto file
The U.S. government delayed the release of some files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the White House said Thursday.
Instead, the National Archives released 2,981 documents Thursday evening, with the rest subject to a 180-day review of redactions from objecting agencies, the Trump administration said. The White House said later that the remaining records would be released "on a rolling basis in the coming weeks."
"I am ordering today that the veil finally be lifted," President Donald Trump wrote in a memo Thursday evening announcing the delay.
"At the same time, executive departments and agencies have proposed to me that certain information should continue to be redacted because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns," he wrote. "I have no choice — today — but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our Nation's security."
Still, he warned that agency heads should be "extremely circumspect" in asking for further postponing the release of any of the documents, saying: "The need for continued protection can only have grown weaker with the passage of time."
By law, the National Archives was supposed to release all of the remaining records by midnight ET — unless Trump objected on national security grounds — to meet a deadline set 25 years ago by The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act. The National Archives said the collection includes about 3,150 records that have never before seen the light of day, as well as the full versions of others that had previously been released with redactions.
Trump "wants to ensure there is full transparency here," a senior administration official said at a briefing. He is "expecting agencies to do a better job in reducing conflict within redactions and get this information out as quickly as possible."
Trump, no stranger to conspiracy theories about the Kennedy killing, had appeared eager to get the latest JFK documents out.
The long anticipated release of the #JFKFiles will take place tomorrow. So interesting!
As journalists, scholars and assassination buffs began scouring the thousands of pages Thursday night, it remained to be seen whether the document dump would satisfy the many people who still dispute the finding of the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he gunned down Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.
The assassination shocked the nation and spawned a conspiracy industry that continues to pump out alternative theories about who was really behind the killing.
Officials at the National Archives have made a point of trying to tamp down expectations that the newest batch of documents contains any blockbuster revelations — and they have noted repeatedly that about 90 percent of the available records related to the assassination are already public.
Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who used his body to shield the mortally wounded president and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy after the first shots rang out in Dallas, said earlier Thursday that he hoped the latest declassified papers shed light on why Oswald pulled the trigger.
"I'm hoping that within that material — and there's lots of it — there will be some indication as to the motive, the reason why he did what he did," Hill told MSNBC.
Hill said he still blames himself for not having reacted faster when the presidential motorcade came under fire.
"Deep down, I still have that sense of guilt that I should have been able to get there quicker and I didn't," he said. "I was the only one who had a chance to do anything."
The paperwork that was scheduled to be unveiled on Thursday has already been vetted by the Assassination Records Review Board, a panel created in the aftermath of Oliver Stone's 1991 conspiracy film "JFK," which popularized the notion that Kennedy was killed by rogue FBI and CIA agents.
Cobb, born Viola June Cobb in Ponca City, Oklahoma, died Oct. 17, 2015, in New York, where she was living in a Manhattan senior center, an official there and her former sister-in-law told NBC News.
Tunheim said in March that the CIA, the State Department and other federal agencies balked at releasing the Mexico City paperwork "because it was thought to be detrimental to our relationship with the Mexican government at the time."