White House chief of staff Mark Meadows rejected suggestions this week that President Trump’s tweets earlier this month calling for the “total declassification” of all documents related to the Russia investigation and the FBI’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server were an explicit order to release more documents.
Meadows’ comments came in a sworn, two-page declaration filed in federal court Tuesday as part of a lawsuit by media and other groups to declassify former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report, without redactions.
The president, on Oct. 6, tweeted: “I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax.”
He added: “Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!”
A federal judge had asked the White House to clarify whether the president had ordered that declassification in his social media posts — a position that conflicts with the Justice Department.
Meadows defended the president’s tweets, saying they were not a direct order to the Justice Department.
“The president indicated to me that his statements on Twitter were not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification or release of any particular documents,” Meadows said.
“The president’s statements do not require altering any redactions on any record at issue in these or any other cases, including, but not limited to, any redactions taken pursuant to any discretionary FOIA exemptions.”
Meadows, later, in a statement to Fox News, said the president “is very clear.”
“He’s been very clear a number of times on the fact that we need to make sure that the transparency on some of these documents as they relate to the whole Russia hoax investigation that the American people get to see exactly what’s there in an unreacted form,” Meadows said. “To take it beyond that is just not appropriate and I’m just trying to make sure we clarify that.”
Last year, the president gave Attorney General Bill Barr authority to declassify any documents related to surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016. Trump, at the time, also ordered members of the intelligence community to cooperate with Barr’s probe.
Allies of the president, including Republicans on Capitol Hill leading their own investigations into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, have criticized officials like FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel, claiming that the directors have been blocking the release of documents.
The president’s tweets come after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified documents that revealed former CIA Director John Brennan briefed former President Obama on Hillary Clinton’s purported “plan” to tie then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia as “a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server” ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Fox News first reported that Ratcliffe declassified Brennan’s handwritten notes – which were taken after he briefed Obama on the intelligence the CIA received – and a CIA memo, which revealed that officials referred the matter to the FBI for potential investigative action.
“Today, at the direction of President Trump, I declassified additional documents relevant to ongoing Congressional oversight and investigative activities,” Ratcliffe said in a statement to Fox News Tuesday.