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Of course Trump is releasing the JFK files – the narrative suits him perfectly

Making the documents public will rekindle interest in that dark chapter of American history and focus on the workings of the ‘secret state’

Kim Sengupta
Monday 23 October 2017 16:33 BST
Conspiracy theorists have repeatedly charged that Trump is being assailed by the deep state
Conspiracy theorists have repeatedly charged that Trump is being assailed by the deep state (Getty)

John F Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, a former US marine who had a Russian wife, had defected at one stage to the Soviet Union and may have been indoctrinated there. He was a lone killer who had no accomplices when he carried out the assassination. Those were the conclusions of official investigations.

But a considerable amount of evidence has emerged since the shooting on 22 November 1963 in Dallas which pointed to a cover-up. Many now firmly believe that rogue elements in the CIA and FBI had worked in collusion with the Mafia to murder the President of the United States.

This is part of the reason why it makes good sense for Donald Trump to order the release of classified material, including CIA and FBI files, on the affair which has hitherto been kept secret. Trump himself has indicated that he is a believer in a conspiracy and has made the claim that the father of Ted Cruz, his opponent in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, was associated with Oswald.

Roger Stone, who helped launch Trump’s presidential campaign and remains a close confidant, is a leading conspiracy theorist. He has written a book on the assassination which makes the accusation, unsupported, that Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s vice president and his successor in the White House, was involved in the killing.

Stone said at the weekend that he helped persuade Trump to release the Kennedy documents. He told Alex Jones, the right-wing radio host and another conspiracy theorist: “I had the opportunity to make the case directly to the President of the United States why I believe it is essential that he releases the balance of the redacted and classified JFK assassination documents.”

The conspiracy theories of Stone and Jones are not confined to the past. They have repeatedly charged that Trump is being assailed by the “deep state”, a supposedly clandestine alliance of senior officers in the CIA, FBI and the US military carrying out the establishment’s dirty works against a populist president. Jones, who heads the alt-right site InfoWars, has warned that he may even face an assassination threat.

They are not the only ones in the Trump camp to rail against “secret forces”. Donald Trump Jr has declared that “the deep state is real, illegal and a threat to national security”. Sean Hannity, the Fox News anchor, charges: “Deep state has gone rogue. The deep state is now actively seeking to take out your President.” For Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, into links between Trump and his associates and Moscow is “the deep state at its very worst”. As that investigation continues and expands, Trump himself has been retweeting claims of sabotage by the deep state.

It is certainly the case that Trump has made enemies in the intelligence community where there is deep concern among some that he is a threat to national security. He sacked James Comey after, it is claimed, the FBI director refused to ease up on the Russia inquiry: the former CIA director, John Brennan has called Trump’s behaviour on a range of issues “despicable” and “disgraceful”.

So making public documents that are likely to reinforce the view that the intelligence services were perfidious over the Kennedy assassination would play into the current Trump narrative. It will rekindle interest on that dark and extraordinary chapter of American history and focus on the workings of the “secret state”. Alex Jones’s InfoWars is proclaiming: “Deep state panics as Trump readies JFK files release.”

US intelligence operatives have falsely claimed then that Oswald was working for the Russians. Now they are claiming falsely, Trump supporters would say, that there are secret Russian connections to the Trump White House. The intelligence services, the dark state, goes the mantra, are the real villains of the piece.

There are, however, some crucial differences between the Kennedy and Trump eras. The antipathy towards JFK from elements in the intelligence services and the military came because of his supposed lack of aggression over Cuba – the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the missile crisis – and towards Russia overall.

A few of the commanders at the time appear to have verged on being deranged. Air Force General Thomas Power, for instance, dismissed the idea of restraint if conflict were to break out with the declaration: “The whole idea is to kill the bastards. At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian left alive, we win.”

Now it is the former military commanders in the Trump administration who are the restraining check over a President who, John Brenner warns, has “by his words and his actions, putting our national security and our collective futures at grave risk”.

Defence Secretary Gen James Mattis, national security adviser Lt Gen HR McMaster and Chief of Staff Gen John Kelly are said to have an agreement that not all three of them would ever be abroad at the same time: one would stay behind in Washington to monitor Trump’s orders.

There is another, somewhat ironic, echo from the Kennedy times. JFK became a target of the mafia, it is claimed, because his brother Robert, the Attorney General, was carrying out a concerted drive against organised crime, one he refused to halt despite warnings. Carlos Marcello, the mafia boss of New Orleans, told a friend before the President's killing: “You know what they say in Sicily: if you want to kill a dog, you don’t cut off the tail, you cut off the head.” Santos Trafficante, mob boss in Florida, confided to an FBI informer: “Kennedy is not going to make it to the [1964] election, he’s going to be hit.”

The alleged role of organised crime is now part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump. The Special Counsel’s team are looking into claims on whether proceeds from crime, some of it from Russia and former Soviet Union, were laundered through Trump construction projects. The Trump Organisation denies the allegations.

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