President Trump has not authorized the “total declassification” of documents about Russia and former rival Hillary Clinton despite recently stating he did, his administration said in court Tuesday.
A top Justice Department official said in a sworn affidavit that White House lawyers explained no such order exists requiring the release of unredacted documents Mr. Trump recently mentioned.
BuzzFeed News had sued the Justice Department last year in a bid to uncover material involving its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Trump said last week on Twitter that he “fully authorized the total declassification” of material at the center of the lawsuit, leading BuzzFeed to argue the documents muse be made available.
G. Bradley Weinsheimer, associate deputy attorney general for the Justice Department, subsequently counseled with White House lawyers before relaying their explanation in the affidavit Tuesday.
“The White House Counsel’s Office informed the Department that there is no order requiring wholesale declassification or disclosure of documents at issue in this matter,” he said in the affidavit.
“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,” he added.
Each of the recent presidential tweets that prompted BuzzFeed to renew its request for the Russia material was posted by the president’s official Twitter account on the night of Oct. 6.
“I have 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!” Mr. Trump said in one of the tweets. “All Russia Hoax Scandal information was Declassified by me long ago,” he tweeted in the other.
Justice Department lawyers previously argued in a separate court case that Mr. Trump’s tweets are considered official statements of the president, who has broad authority to declassify material.