President Donald Trump on Thursday didn’t release all of the files about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy — but he did make public more than 2,800 pages of documents.
The ones Trump did release, which partially fulfills a decades-old law calling for the release of the files from the National Archives, contain a rich trove of previously sealed information. Collectively, they deepen what’s known about one of the most haunting and mysterious events in American history. The documents released Thursday night include fresh insights into shooter Lee Harvey Oswald’s motives, how the FBI reacted to the shooting and Oswald’s interactions with Soviet intelligence officers.
Here are a few initial findings from the latest trove of the Kennedy files:
Hoover expressed concerns that Americans would harbor doubts about Oswald’s guilt
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover — in a memo penned on Nov. 24, 1963, the same day that Oswald, the perpetrator of the assassination, was killed in apparent retribution by a man named Jack Ruby — voiced concern that Oswald’s death would result in uncertainty among U.S. citizens over his guilt. Hoover discussed the need to find concrete evidence.
“The thing I am concerned about, and so is [Deputy Attorney General Nicholas] Katzenbach, is having something issued so that we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin,” Hoover wrote.
Hoover added of Oswald’s death: “There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead.”
Hoover wrote of Ruby potentially having “underworld activity”
Ruby, who killed Oswald just two days after he was apprehended and charged with Kennedy’s assassination, was rumored to have ties to the seedy underbelly of Chicago, Hoover wrote in the same Nov. 24, 1963, memo, documents show.
“We have no information on Ruby that is firm, although there are some rumors of underworld activity in Chicago,” Hoover wrote. He added that it was “inexcusable” that Dallas police allowed Oswald to be killed, despite warnings from the federal government to be wary of potential retribution for the killing of Kennedy.
Many have since gone on to speculate and investigate whether Ruby had ties to organized crime.
Oswald spoke with a KGB official just two months prior to the assassination
Oswald was intercepted speaking to an agent of the KGB, the ruthless security and intelligence arm of the Soviet Union, just a couple of months prior to the Kennedy shooting. Records show that during a call between him and the Russian embassy in Mexico City, Mexico, flagged by the CIA, Oswald was heard speaking “in broken Russian” to Consul Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikova, whom the documents say was an “identified KGB officer.” Though the call may have been intercepted by “the agents own carelessness,” the documents say, it was “not usual” for the KGB to engage in such discussions at a Soviet embassy.
Martin Luther King Jr., a well-known FBI target, was repeatedly mentioned
The released documents included a slew of files related to Martin Luther King Jr., a well-known target of the FBI. One such file, the beginning of which is heavily redacted, includes pages dated from May 18-19, 1966, appearing to list 18 names and phone numbers of people involved in phone calls to and from King.
Another heavily redacted document gives insight into the FBI’s concerns regarding King’s relationship with communist movements. “In Subject’s many activities in the civil rights movement, he has sought and relied upon the advice of various individuals, including the following:” — at which point the list is redacted. The file continues to detail King’s authoring of an article titled “What We Negroes Ask of the President,” noteworthy for its “exclusive publication” in an October 1964 issue of Vie Nuove, “an Italian weekly magazine owned by the Italian Communist Party.”
The documents continue to follow King’s influence on an international stage even following his assassination, with an April 1968 cable labeled “Eyes Only” reporting a demonstration in Japan at “a rally of 1,000 people for ‘assassinated civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King.’” The file refers to Beheiren, a Japanese activist group instrumental in protesting the country’s assistance to the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
Lyndon Johnson claimed the assassination was payback for the killing of a Vietnamese leader, intelligence chief said
CIA Director Richard Helms, who served during the Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations, claimed in April 1975 that Johnson used to claim that Kennedy’s killing was an act of foreign retribution, the documents show.
“President Johnson used to go around saying that the reason President Kennedy was assassinated was that he had assassinated President Diem,” Helms said in a deposition.
South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem was arrested and assassinated in 1963 during a U.S.-backed coup.
Oswald was a “good shot,” according to a Cuban intelligence official
A Cuban intelligence officer told another Cuban that he knew that Oswald was a “good shot,” because he “knew him.” The conversation was unearthed from records of a previously secret channel.
Robert F. Kennedy was warned about a book detailing his “close relationship” with Marilyn Monroe
Robert F. Kennedy, the younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, was sent a memo warning him about the looming release of a book divulging information on his “close relationship” with icon Marilyn Monroe. According to the memo, “The strange death of Marilyn Monroe,” a 1964 book by Frank Capell, alluded to the pair frequently. “Throughout the book … Capell claims that you had a close relationship with Miss Monroe,” documents show officials warning Robert F. Kennedy, the then-attorney general.