- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 22, 2020

President Trump’s recent comments about declassifying “Russian Hoax” material do not warrant the release of records sought by news outlets suing his administration, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton denied motions filed on behalf of BuzzFeed and CNN that called for releasing without redactions FBI documents about Russian involvement in Mr. Trump’s election.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter earlier this month that he “fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents” about what he called the “Russia Hoax,” adding: “No redactions!”

“All Russia Hoax Scandal information was Declassified by me long ago,” Mr. Trump said in another tweet later on Oct. 6.

BuzzFeed and CNN have been suing the Trump administration since 2019 to obtain material relating to the investigation of Russian election interference led by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

Lawyers for the news groups said the president’s tweets should trigger the Department of Justice to release the records they want, but the White House denied Mr. Trump actually declassified them.

White House chief of staff Mark R. Meadows replied in an affidavit filed Tuesday in the case that Mr. Trump did not mean to authorize the release of material about the Mueller probe.

Mr. Trump indicated his tweets “were not self-executing declassifications orders and do not require the declassification or release of any particular documents,” Mr. Meadows said in the affidavit.

Instead, Mr. Meadows added, Mr. Trump was referring to previously authorizing his attorney general, William P. Barr, “to declassify documents as part of his ongoing review of intelligence activities relating to the 2016 presidential election” and related matters.

Judge Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, sided Wednesday with the White House, but not without raising concerns reportedly about the president’s social media postings.

“I am constrained to conclude that there was no further expansion and therefore there is no need for further review of the documents,” he ruled, according to Politico.

“It is unfortunate that we are in this [situation] because, obviously, when there’s ever a reference to declassification of classified information those words spoken should be artfully spoken, so there’s no ambiguity as to what the intent was and, obviously, that’s not what occurred here,” Mr. Walton said, Politico reported.

Jason Leopold, a BuzzFeed reporter and co-plaintiff in the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, argued all was not lost in spite of losing the latest push to make public the Mueller probe material.

“It was a worthwhile battle we waged over the past two weeks. And now the public knows Trump said he doesn’t mean what he tweets,” Mr. Leopold said on Twitter.

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