Donald Trump's chief of staff said Tuesday that the president told him his two tweets calling for the declassification of all documents related to the Russia investigation meant something entirely different.
Mark Meadows signed a sworn declaration that was submitted to the US District Court for the District of Columbia in response to legal challenges by BuzzFeed News, based on Trump's Oct. 6 tweets, seeking the release of thousands of pages of records from former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Meadows said Trump's tweets were related to an “authorization he had provided” to Attorney General Bill Barr to declassify documents on the genesis of the Russia probe. Meadows described the records as pertaining to “intelligence activities relating to the 2016 Presidential election and certain related matters.”
Meadows declared: "The president indicated to me that his statements on Twitter were not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification release of any particular documents," including Russia investigation-related documents that BuzzFeed News has filed multiple Freedom of Information Act lawsuits for.
Last week, US District Court Judge Reggie Walton ordered the government to obtain a declaration from Trump or someone who would speak directly with the president to get the meaning behind his tweets and his intent.
In one tweet, the president stated he has “fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!”
In a second tweet, he said, "All Russia Hoax Scandal information was Declassified by me long ago. Unfortunately for our Country, people have acted very slowly, especially since it is perhaps the biggest political crime in the history of our Country. Act!!!"
The Justice Department had argued in court papers that Trump's tweets are “ambiguous” and “do not refer to any specific document and do not indicate that the President was exercising his Constitutional authority to declassify specific information. They were not an order to declassify particular material."
The matter came before Walton after BuzzFeed News filed two emergency motions seeking the immediate release of Russia-related documents in response to Trump’s tweets.
Jason Leopold is a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He is a 2018 Pulitzer finalist for international reporting, recipient of the IRE 2016 FOI award and a 2016 Newseum Institute National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame inductee.
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