THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP PROMISED AN EPIC TEST for the Freedom of Information Act. On one side, the powerful, yet deeply flawed, transparency law that turned 50 years old a few months before Trump’s 2016 election. On the other, a brash, dishonest, norm-flouting billionaire who had spent his adult life working in a privately-owned business. What would happen when Trump, the reality-star-turned-demagogue, became subject to the presidency’s transparency laws?
Alas, the FOIA world is notoriously slow-moving; historian and journalist Jon Wiener’s battle for John Lennon’s FBI file began with a request in 1981 and didn’t fully end until late 2006, when the bureau handed over the last 10 pages. And one of the biggest FOIA-driven stories of the Trump years, the Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers,” was a reminder that the law often works better as a window into the past than a mirror of the present.
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