The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was forced to assert that President Donald Trump actually lied when he tweeted that he had declassified documents relative to the federal investigation into the alleged "Russian Hoax."
The DOJ released a statement in response to an emergency motion filed by BuzzFeed News journalist Jason Leopold seeking unredacted sections of the Mueller report and 302s— Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) witness interview materials. BuzzFeed also requested that Senior U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton order the government agency to reprocess its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and lift redactions the Trump administration may have left in place.
The publication also argued that with the president's claim that the documents had been declassified, there was no longer a justifiable reason for the DOJ to legally continue withholding the documents.
However, the government agency pushed back against Trump's claims. While the DOJ officials acknowledged that the president does have the authority to declassify documents, they made it clear that he had not done so, despite his tweets suggesting otherwise.
"The President has the authority to declassify documents that are otherwise currently and properly classified. The President has not exercised this authority with respect to any of the FD-302s remaining at issue in this case," the DOJ wrote.
The DOJ added, "The Court cannot infer that any such sweeping order exists based on the President's Twitter statements because they merely suggest that the President 'authorized' the 'declassification' of unspecified information. The Twitter statements do not refer to any specific document and do not indicate that the President was exercising his Constitutional authority to declassify specific information. They were not an order to declassify particular material."
The latest controversy and DOJ response comes less than two weeks after Trump's problematic tweets. On October 6, the president claimed he had "fully authorized" the total declassification of the documents.
"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!" Trump tweeted.
Just an hour after the initial tweet, Trump continued with his rant as he tweeted, "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!!!"
Regardless of Trump's tweets, the DOJ also noted the White House's position, which suggests Trump's social media remarks carry no weight and cannot be enforced.
"And the White House has made clear that the Twitter statements 'do not require altering any redactions on any record at issue in this case, including, but not limited to, any redactions taken pursuant to any discretionary FOIA exemptions,'" the DOJ wrote. "Nor do the President's statements on Twitter prevent the Department from taking appropriate exemptions and redacting documents consistent with law and the positions the Department takes in FOIA matters.' Therefore, the Twitter statements do not, as Plaintiffs argue, operate as a waiver of any of these exemptions."