Trump Could Release The Kennedy Files — Or Not

by Lani Seelinger
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Could the irony be any more palpable? It's time for the president to authorize the release of a collection of documents on one of the most conspiracy-ridden episodes in American history, and the president at the moment is a conspiracy theorist himself. Specifically, the Kennedy files could be released by Donald Trump this year — if he doesn't come up with a reason to stop it. The documents, which mostly come from the FBI and the CIA, could put some of the conspiracy theories surrounding John F. Kennedy's assassination to rest, although they may also exacerbate some.

When George H.W. Bush signed a law in 1992 requiring the National Archives to put together and release a collection of documents on the Kennedy assassination 25 years later, he knew the extent of the conspiracy theories that surrounded the event. However, he never could have predicted that the president who would have the responsibility of signing off on it might actually subscribe to numerous conspiracy theories, including at least one about JFK's death.

This is where things get slightly more complicated — the Trump administration apparently knows about its upcoming responsibility, but hasn't said anything about whether it'll go through with it. The president does, after all, have the option of keeping the documents under lock and key, if he determines that they would pose a significant threat to defense, intelligence, or law enforcement operations.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Trump, of course, has expressed belief in numerous conspiracy theories. President Obama wasn't born in America (which he later retracted), and then he wiretapped Trump's phone lines. There are dark, mysterious forces in government working against his administration. Trump's campaign speeches and advertising were rife with baseless accusations, including the laughable (and easily disprovable) idea that Republican primary rival Ted Cruz's dad was associated with JFK's killer. That one actually came up multiple times, along with at least one defense of the National Enquirer's reporting, since they were the outlet that originally published the conspiracy theory that Trump had picked up on.

Given the high percentage of Americans who believe that JFK's killer did not act alone, there's a good chance that even the release of FBI and CIA documents conclusively proving otherwise won't be enough to silence the conspiracy-loving types. As Donald Trump falls squarely within that category whether or not his ideas on JFK's death match the public record, this will give him an interesting chance to prove himself in a way.

Will he feed conspiracy theorists' wildest dreams by insinuating that there's something still too dark to be hidden in the files? Or will he let them out in the public? The deadline to release the Kennedy files is in October, but the National Archive currently plans to release them gradually over the summer, so Trump will have to make the decision soon.