A Judge Sided With The Government’s Plea Not To Take Trump's Tweets Literally

When the president tweeted that all Russia documents should be made public, BuzzFeed News went to court to hold him to it. But a judge ruled the tweet was merely "inartful."

Nell Redmond / AP

A federal judge decided, in a lawsuit brought by BuzzFeed News, that when President Donald Trump tweeted earlier this month that he had “authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax,” he was not articulating an actual policy.

US District Court Judge Reggie Walton responded to emergency motions from BuzzFeed News seeking to make the government follow through on Trump’s public statements and quickly release the documents. The government argued that Trump’s Oct. 6 tweets were ambiguous and should not be seen as orders to declassify anything specific.

Walton ruled in favor of the White House on Wednesday but criticized the president’s “inartful” tweets for causing confusion over a matter of national security. According to a report in the Washington Post, the judge sided with the White House but said, “It is unfortunate that we are in this situation because, obviously, whenever there’s a reference to the declassification of classified information, the words spoken should be artfully spoken.”

A second tweet on the matter from Trump 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!!!"

Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, signed a sworn declaration saying the tweets were about an “authorization he had provided” to Attorney General Bill Barr but “were not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification release of any particular documents."

In 2019, BuzzFeed News, and later CNN, filed lawsuits to gain access to the FBI summaries of witness interviews from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Since last November, the Department of Justice and FBI have turned over more than 4,000 pages of documents. Those records, however, have been heavily redacted.