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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.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

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.

Go deeper

Twitter bans Trump

Twitter announced Friday that the platform will permanently suspend President Trump's account effective immediately.

Driving the news: It's Twitter's strongest action against the president's account and comes in response to the "risk of further incitement of violence," per the social media company. The move follows Wednesday's siege at the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob as Congress was certifying the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 5 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.