No, President Trump’s release of a handful of secret JFK files last week was not a “distraction” from his troubles with Special Counsel Robert Mueller III. The release was something that he was legally required to do, and he actually failed to do it.
But with the indictment of Paul Manafort, all is forgotten, at least about JFK. The Washington press corps and the news cycle has whirled away from the crime of Dallas to more recent lawbreaking.
The JFK files story so far, if anybody is still paying attention, is a study in Washington’s dysfunction: Trump got rolled. The media got played. The JFK coverup continues.
Trump got rolled. The president’s enthusiastic tweeting about JFK betrayed a genuine, if naive, desire for full disclosure.
The long anticipated release of the #JFKFiles will take place tomorrow. So interesting!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2017
Trump’s weakness showed when the CIA and FBI responded at the last minute by telling him the release of 30,000 pages of material would endanger American lives, a claim that is almost certainly untrue. Saying he had “no choice,’ the commander in chief surrendered to their demands to withhold most of the files beyond the statutory deadline of October 26.
It was not a popular decision. Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted caustically, “YeGods u had fifty yrs NOW CIA WANTS FURTHER COVERUP/POTUS STOP”
Federal judge John Tunheim who oversaw the release of JFK records in the 1990s called the continuing secrecy “disappointing.”
The media got played. Yet liberal news outlets, usually suspicious of Trump, treated White House statements and numbers credulously. As a legal fig leaf for naked non-compliance with the law, Trump issued a statement he was “ordering that the veil finally be lifted” on the records–which he did not do.
NBC News reported Trump had released “most but not all” of the secret records–which wasn’t close to true.
On MSNBC Rachel Maddow said the president had released 2,800 long-secret files, which sounds like a lot, but only made public “some weird proportion” of them–as if it would be eccentric for her to calculate just how much information about a murder of the liberal president the CIA still feels the need to keep secret.
The coverup continues: Rex Bradford of the Mary Ferrell Foundation set the record straight with data at WhoWhatWhy. According to the National Archives JFK records database, the government’s trove of secret JFK records
includes 3,147 “withheld in full” records never seen, and an unknown number of redacted documents estimated at about 30,000. Intensely lobbied by federal agencies including the CIA, Trump instead authorized the withholding of well over 90% of these documents. 52 of the 3,147 withheld-in-full records were released and put online by NARA, less than 2%, and 2,839 of the redacted documents were released, which is probably less than 10% of that set.
So, all in all, about 90 percent of the JFK files remain secret, and Trump’s last tweet on the subject is wholly inaccurate.
JFK Files are released, long ahead of schedule!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2017
To be tedious about it, most the JFK files are not released, and the president is now four days behind schedule.
Hence the JFK files story, at least so far:
Trump got rolled. The media got played. The coverup continues.