Trump holds back some JFK assassination files, others released

WEB UPDATE (7:45 p.m.) The White House has released 2,895 documents on the JFK assasination.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump acted Thursday to block the release of hundreds of records on the John F. Kennedy assassination, bending to CIA and FBI appeals to keep those secrets.

“I have no choice,” Trump said in a memo, according to White House officials. He was placing those files under a six-month review while letting 2,800 other records come out Thursday evening, racing a deadline to honor a law mandating their release.

JFK experts believe the files will provide insight into the inner workings of the CIA and FBI. But they stress that it will take weeks to mine the documents for potentially new and interesting information.

Some of the documents are related to Oswald’s mysterious six-day trip to Mexico City right before the assassination, scholars say. Oswald said he was visiting the Cuban and Soviet Union embassies there to get visas, but much about his time there remains unknown.

The to-be-released documents contain details about the arrangements the U.S. entered into with the Mexican government that allowed it to have close surveillance of those and other embassies, Tunheim said. Other files scholars hope will be released in full include an internal CIA document on its Mexico City station, and a report on Oswald’s trip from staffers of the House committee that investigated the assassination.

Officials say Trump will impress upon federal agencies that JFK files should stay secret after the six-month review “only in the rarest cases.”

Trump is delaying the release of some files on the John Kennedy assassination that were due to come out Thursday. He’s approved 2,800 other records for release by midnight.

MORE: The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection

White House officials say Trump will state in a coming memo that he had “no choice” but to keep others secret because of national security concerns. He’s having those records further reviewed for the next six months.

Officials say Trump will impress upon federal agencies that JFK files should stay secret after the six-month review “only in the rarest cases.”

Senior administration officials say the CIA and the FBI made most of the requests to continue to withhold information from the release of the last trove of secret files about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The collection includes more than 3,100 documents - comprising hundreds of thousands of pages - that have never been seen by the public. About 30,000 documents were released previously - with redactions. The National Archives is to release 2,800 of the remaining records now.

President Donald Trump has asked all agencies, including the CIA and FBI, to go back and review their suggested redactions so that even more of the material can be released in coming months.

A 1992 law required all government records related to the assassination to be “publicly disclosed in full” within 25 years. The deadline was Thursday.

Much of Thursday passed with nothing from the White House or National Archives except silence, leaving unclear how the government would comply with a law requiring the records to come out by the end of the day - unless Trump had been persuaded by intelligence agencies to hold some back.

White House officials said the FBI and CIA made the most requests within the government to withhold some information.

No blockbusters had been expected in the last trove of secret files regarding Kennedy’s assassination Nov. 22, 1963, given a statement months ago by the Archives that it assumed the records, then under preparation, would be “tangential” to what’s known about the killing.

But for historians, it’s a chance to answer lingering questions, put some unfounded conspiracy theories to rest, perhaps give life to other theories - or none of that, if the material adds little to the record.

Researchers were frustrated by the uncertainty that surrounded the release for much of the day.

“The government has had 25 years_with a known end-date_to prepare #JFKfiles for release,” University of Virginia historian Larry Sabato tweeted in the afternoon. “Deadline is here. Chaos.”

Asked what he meant, Sabato emailed to say: “Contradictory signals were given all day. Trump’s tweets led us to believe that disclosure was ready to go. Everybody outside government was ready to move quickly.”

Trump had been a bit coy about the scheduled release on the eve of it, tweeting: “The long anticipated release of the #JFKFiles will take place tomorrow. So interesting!”

Experts say the publication of the last trove of evidence could help allay suspicions of a conspiracy - at least for some.

“As long as the government is withholding documents like these, it’s going to fuel suspicion that there is a smoking gun out there about the Kennedy assassination,” said Patrick Maney, a presidential historian at Boston College.

The collection includes more than 3,100 records - comprising hundreds of thousands of pages - that have never been seen by the public. About 30,000 documents were released previously - with redactions.

Experts said intelligence agencies pushed Trump to keep some of the remaining materials secret - the CIA didn’t comment on that.

Whatever details are released, they’re not expected to give a definitive answer to a question that still lingers for some: Whether anyone other than Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in the assassination.

The Warren Commission in 1964 reported that Oswald had been the lone gunman, and another congressional probe in 1979 found no evidence to support the theory that the CIA had been involved. But other interpretations, some more creative than others, have persisted.

The 1992 law mandating release of the JFK documents states that all the files “shall be publicly disclosed in full” within 25 years - that means by Thursday - unless the president certifies that “continued postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm to the military defense; intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations.”

That doesn’t allow the president, for example, to hold some records back because they might be embarrassing to agencies or people.

“In any release of this size, there always are embarrassing details,” said Douglas Brinkley, a professor at Rice University.

The law does not specify penalties for noncompliance, saying only that House and Senate committees are responsible for oversight of the collection.

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