Meadows Tells Judge That Trump Tweets Weren’t Declassification Orders

Meadows Tells Judge That Trump Tweets Weren’t Declassification Orders
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on Sept. 23, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)
Janita Kan

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Tuesday that President Donald Trump's Twitter posts about declassifying “any & all documents” related to the Russia probe and Hillary Clinton emails did not amount to an order to declassify or release additional documents.

In a sworn declaration to a federal court, Meadows said the president's tweets from earlier this month were "not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification or release of any particular documents."

He added that Trump's statements also 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 [Freedom of Information Act] exemptions.”

Trump wrote on Twitter on Oct. 6 that he had “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!”

“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,” he also wrote.

The president's posts came hours after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified a pair of documents detailing a U.S. intelligence intercept of a Russian intelligence product that claimed that Clinton had approved a plan on July 26, 2016, to smear Trump by linking his campaign to the alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee by Russians.

Meadow's filing was made in connection to a lawsuit that is seeking an unredacted version of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Oct. 16 ordered the Justice Department (DOJ) to file a declaration from Trump or his aide regarding whether the social media posts were intended to provide for further declassification and release of documents from Mueller's investigation.

The DOJ previously told the court in a filing that an unidentified official from the White House counsel’s office informed the department that the social media posts were "not an order to the Department of Justice to declassify the materials in this case."

Following Trump's Twitter posts, the plaintiffs in the case—BuzzFeed, its investigative journalist Jason Leopold, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a nonprofit research center—argued that the Twitter post amounts to a waiver of the exemptions. They asked the judge to order the DOJ to reprocess the report in light of  “this waiver.”

Walton then ordered the DOJ to respond to the claim by Oct. 13 and to talk to the White House in order to ascertain the president’s official position regarding the declassification and release of documents relating to Mueller’s investigation.

The judge has scheduled another hearing on the matter for Wednesday to address the White House response.