U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton has recently been forced to consider a recurring question of the Trump era: Whether to take the president seriously or literally.
Walton had to decide how to treat a series of tweets from President Donald Trump announcing that he had declassified all documentation related to the FBI’s investigation in to Russian interference in the 2016 election with no redactions. Those tweets, posted in early October, caught the eye of Buzzfeed journalist Jason Leopold, who last year had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the unredacted summaries of interviews conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office in his investigation. If Trump had really declassified all of this material about the FBI investigation, Leopold thought, surely Buzzfeed could get the goods, right?
Maybe not. As it turns out, not even the Trump administration believes that the president meant what he said, or in this case tweeted. A Justice Department lawyer, relying on White House legal guidance, argued that Trump’s tweets about declassification did not mean that everything Buzzfeed and other news outlets were requesting would be declassified.