President Donald Trump delayed the release of more than 300 files related to the President John F. Kennedy assassination, citing last-minute requests from national security agencies to keep some of the files confidential.
Then-President George H.W. Bush signed the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, which established a single collection of the files at the National Archives. A plan to declassify the files was set for the 25th anniversary of the law: Oct. 26, 2017.
Conspiracy theorists have long questioned the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the shooting death of Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, in downtown Dallas.
President Lyndon B. Johnson established the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy on Nov. 29, 1963, to investigate his predecessor's death. The almost yearlong investigation was led by Chief Justice Earl Warren. The commission, which became known as the Warren Commission, included two U.S. senators, two U.S. representatives, a former CIA director and a former World Bank president.
Hundreds of requests for redactions came in Thursday during the final hours leading up to the records' release.
"Trump faced an impossible choice to either release everything and further alienate the espionage community, or allow himself to be strong-armed by his own spies," CNN reported.
The president tweeted early Friday that "in the end there will be great transparency," but his message fell short of promising that every document will be made available.
"It is my hope to get just about everything to public!" he wrote.
In a memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies, that was posted on CNN, Trump said the American public "expects — and deserves — its government to provide as much access as possible" to the assassination records.
From the memo:
Therefore I am ordering today that the veil finally be lifted. At the same time, executive departments and agencies (agencies) have proposed to me that certain information should continue to be redacted because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns. I have no choice —today — but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our Nation's security. To further address these concerns, I am also ordering agencies to re-review each and every one of those redactions over the next 180 days. At the end of that period, I will order the public disclosure of any information that the agencies cannot demonstrate meets the statutory standard for continued postponement of disclosure under section 5(g)(2)(D) of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (44 U.S.C. 2107 note) (the "Act").