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Austin City Council Could Find Long-Awaited Answers In Trump's JFK Release

U.S. House of Representatives
The House Select Committee on Assassinations in session in the '70s.

In a strange twist of fate, Austin City Council – which currently includes members who’ve been vehemently resistant to President Trump's policies – could get a long-lost wish granted today when the administration releases more than thousands of files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The effort to release the trove of documents was first prompted by the 1991 Oliver Stone film JFK, which asserted that Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone in the 1963 assassination and that there was potential governmental involvement, among other theories.

As NPR’s Brian Naylor reports, Trump is all that stands between keeping the records sealed and opening them up.

The files would be the last to be released by the National Archives under a 1992 law that ordered the government to make all remaining documents pertaining to the assassination public… Following Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK, which posited several theories about the assassination, Congress approved the law, forming the Assassination Records Review Board. It required the government to release all its files on the assassination in 25 years, unless doing so would harm national security, giving the president authority to block the release.

But before JFK, Austin City Council had questions of its own about Kennedy’s killing.

In a 1977 resolution, council members called on the FBI and the CIA to release all documents related to the assassination, as well as all documents related to the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. by James Earl Ray.

The council passed the resolution after controversy swirled around the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Citing public opinion polls that suggested Americans thought neither Oswald nor Ray acted alone, the council called for a "complete and aggressive investigation."

WHEREAS, several recent public opinion polls indicate the majority of the American people believe these two great leaders were victims of a conspiracy, and not a lone assassin; and WHEREAS, some government agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency surpressed [sic] evidence concerning the violent deaths of these two American leaders, during the original investigation; and WHEREAS, the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States is not a continuing body, and all committees must be reconstituted by each Congress; NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF AUSTIN TEXAS that the House of Representatives of the Ninety-Fifth Congress of the United States is urged, by this body, to reconstitute the House Select Committee on Assassinations; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the House of Representatives is further urged to substantially fund and staff the House Select Committee on Assassinations, as to insure a complete and aggressive investigation;

Council called for a renewal of the committee through another two-year congressional budget cycle. 

The investigation was prompted after questions arose over the Warren Commission's findings and a wave of conspiratorial fervor. The committee's investigations didn't yield any new leads in either case, however, and its two-year life saw resignations of two committee chairs and its lead counsel. It wasn't reauthorized. 

The council vote was unanimous and the resolution was sent to members of the Texas congressional delegation. The committee did publish a reportin 1979, but its findings were disputed. 

Perhaps, if the Trump administration follows through on its promise, the Austin City Council will find what it was looking for. 

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.