Oct 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

DOJ says Trump's tweets "declassifying" Russia documents are not orders

A gif of trump spitting out the twitter logo.
llustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Attorneys from the Department of Justice argued in court on Tuesday that President Trump's tweets authorizing the "total declassification of any & all documents" related to the Russia investigation and Hillary Clinton's emails should not be considered real declassification orders.

Why it matters: BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold cited the tweets in an emergency motion last week seeking to gain access to special counsel Robert Mueller's unredacted report as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.

Details: DOJ attorneys told District Judge Reggie Walton, who demanded that the DOJ clarify its standing on the tweets, that they conferred with the White House counsel's office "and were informed that there was no order requiring declassification or disclosure of any document at issue in this case."

  • "The Department was further informed that the President’s statements on Twitter were not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification of any particular documents," the attorneys wrote in a filing.
  • "Although in May 2019, the President did delegate declassification authority to the Attorney General, to date, the Attorney General has not exercised that declassification authority to release any of the redacted material in this case based on the President’s Twitter statements."

The big picture: This is not the first time the DOJ has argued that the president's tweets should not be taken as official directives or "pure fact," according to USA Today.

  • In March 2017, Trump tweeted that former President Barack Obama had his "wires tapped" during the 2016 presidential election. DOJ later confirmed in court that the agency "has no records that support his statement."
  • In November 2017, Trump tweeted that the House of Representatives was refusing to release documents that covered up misconduct by the FBI and the DOJ, and they needed to be released immediately. DOJ attorneys said in a filing that despite Trump's tweets, there were no official disclosure orders.

Read the filing.

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