WASHINGTON — It was a showdown 25 years in the making: With the world itching to finally get a look at classified Kennedy assassination files, and the deadline for their release just hours away, intelligence officials were still angling for a way to keep their secrets. President Donald Trump, the one man able to block the release, did not appreciate their persistence. He did not intend to make this easy.
Like much else surrounding investigations of the 1963 killing of President John F. Kennedy, Thursday’s release of 2,800 records from the JFK files was anything but smooth. It came together only at the last minute, with White House lawyers still fielding late-arriving requests for additional redactions in the morning and an irritated Trump continuing to resist signing off on the request, according to an account by two White House officials. They spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.
The tale of the final hours before the congressionally mandated 25-year release deadline adds a new chapter to the story of Trump’s troubled relationship with his spy agencies. He again flashed his skepticism and unpredictability in dealing with agencies long accustomed to a level of deference. Intelligence officials, meanwhile, were again left scratching their heads about a president whose impulses they cannot predict.
And those officials had their own story to tell, some rejecting the notion they were slow to act on Trump’s expectations for the documents. The CIA began work months ago to get its remaining assassination-related documents ready for release on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the process. The person, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the process and spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the goal was to have all the agency’s documents ready to be released in full or with national security redactions before the deadline.
Since taking office, Trump has challenged the integrity of intelligence leaders, moved to exert more control over U.S. spying agencies and accused his predecessor of using government spycraft to monitor his campaign. In the JFK files matter, one White House official said, Trump wanted to make clear he wouldn’t be bullied by the agencies.
Whatever occurred in the lead-up to deadline day, Trump was irritated Thursday that agencies still were arguing for more redactions. The president earlier in the week had tweeted to tease the release of the documents, heightening the sense of drama on a subject that has sparked the imaginations of conspiracy theorists for decades. Under a 1992 law, all of the records related to the assassination were to be made public unless explicitly withheld by the president.
Just before the release Thursday, Trump wrote in a memorandum that he had “no choice” but to agree to requests from the CIA and FBI to keep thousands of documents secret because of the possibility that releasing the information could still harm national security. Two aides said Trump was upset by what he perceived to be overly broad secrecy requests, adding that the agencies had been explicitly warned about his expectation that redactions be kept to a minimum.
“The president and White House have been very clear with all agencies for weeks: They must be transparent and disclose all information possible,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said Friday.
Late last week, Trump received his first official briefing on the release in an Oval Office meeting that included Chief of Staff John Kelly, White House Counsel Don McGahn and National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg. Trump made it clear he was unsatisfied with the pace of declassification.
Trump’s tweets, an official said, were meant as a signal to the intelligence community to take seriously his threats to release the documents in their entirety.
According to White House officials, Trump accepted that some of the records contained references to sensitive sources and methods used by the intelligence community and law enforcement and that declassification could harm American foreign policy interests. But after having the scope of the redactions presented to him, Trump told aides he did not believe them to be in the spirit of the law.
On Thursday, Trump’s top aides presented him with an alternative to simply acquiescing to the agency requests: He could temporarily allow the redactions while ordering the agencies to launch a new comprehensive examination of the records still withheld or redacted in part. Trump accepted the suggestion, ordering that agencies be “extremely circumspect” about keeping the remaining documents secret at the end of the 180-day assessment.
“The American public expects — and deserves — its government to provide as much access as possible to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records so that the people may finally be fully informed about all aspects of this pivotal event,” Trump wrote.
If you do one thing: Twin Falls Farmers Market’s festivities will include a bounce house and scavenger hunt for children, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and music by Gary and Cindy Braun, 10 a.m. to noon, at 611 North College Road in Twin Falls.
TWIN FALLS — Police say a man was arrested early Friday after punching another man in the head inside Bumpin Bernie’s, only days after the city warned the bar to cut back on police calls or risk being force to close earlier.
Officer Braxton Christensen said in his report that he was called out to the area about 1:20 a.m. for an assault in progress. Upon arrival, a man told the officer he was inside Bumpin Bernie’s when he was punched in the face by another man, then chased down the street.
The man who punched and chased him then kept on running, he told police.
Police say a witness reported a Hispanic man had been using the “N” word and went after the only African American person in the club.
Officers later identified Francisco Vazquez Guzman, 25, of Twin Falls as the assailant. Guzman was found in a black car at a gas station on Sixth Avenue West.
After the victim identified Guzman as the man who attacked him, Guzman was arrested on misdemeanor charges of second offense DUI, battery and third offense driving without privileges. His bail was set at $5,000 and his pretrial is scheduled for Dec. 12.
Burhan Hetemi, owner of Bumpin Bernie’s, told the Times-News that “none of that ever happened in my bar, whatsoever. I closed at 12:45.”
He said he did see some activity “not even (expletive) close to my bar” — about a block away.
Bumpin Bernie’s was heard before the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this week after police asked the city to cut back the bar’s hours — it currently stays open until 3 a.m. as a nightclub on Fridays and Saturdays.
At the hearing, commissioners decided to give the bar until Dec. 12 to cut back on police calls at the business and in the parking lot behind the bar.
BOISE — An Idaho Supreme Court ruling has the state’s top legislative leaders scrambling to prepare for how to close out the 2018 session months before it kicks off in January.
Idaho’s 14-member legislative council met Friday to discuss a draft requiring the Legislature to wait for an unspecified amount of time to allow for the bills to be transmitted to the governor’s desk before officially adjourning. Officials added they don’t expect to adopt the rule change during the upcoming session, but instead want to test out the process to work out any possible kinks.
“The reason to make it simply a draft is because the Legislature has never been through this before, let’s give the body flexibility while still providing some sort of roadmap,” said Eric Milstead, director of Legislative Services Offices, who helped come up with the rule proposal.
The state’s highest court ruled earlier this year that it was illegal for the Idaho Legislature to adjourn before the governor received the bills passed throughout the session. Instead, the court said the Idaho Legislature must present all bills to the governor before lawmakers can go home for the year. The ruling was part of a lawsuit filed by nearly 30 state Republican lawmakers who sued the state arguing that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter improperly vetoed a bill that would have repealed the sales tax on groceries. The court upheld Otter’s veto.
While the decision doesn’t affect the majority of taxpayers, it did upend decades of legislative procedure for future legislative sessions.
“We’re in unchartered territory,” Milstead said.
Several council members objected to holding off adopting the new procedure, pointing out the importance of the Legislature having firm guidelines. Others raised concerns about lawmakers waiting
“So it sounds to me like we’re going to be sitting around and we’re going to be being paid for the time the bills are being transmitted, is that correct?” asked Democratic Rep. Phylis King, of Boise.
“That’s correct,” said Republican Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, of Rexburg. “That’s one of the consequences that we ended up with here.”
The council didn’t make any decision on Friday, but agreed they hope to adjourn by March 27.