This stunning decision not to release visitor logs from the Trump White House raises the obvious question: what is Trump trying to hide?
NBC News reports that “the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expected criticism and questions about a lack of transparency but argued that White House officials need to be able to get policy input freely without individuals’ names being released publicly.”
Time reported on Friday that “The decision, after nearly three months of speculation about the fate of the records, marks a dramatic shift from the Obama Administration’s voluntary disclosure of more than 6 million records during his presidency.”
White House communications director Michael Dubke said the decision to reverse the Obama-era policy was due to “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.” Instead, the Trump Administration is relying on a federal court ruling that most of the logs are “presidential records” and are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
As USA Today reports, in March a group of Democrats introduced the “Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act,” otherwise known as the “MAR-A-LAGO Act.”
The legislation would require the publication of White House visitor logs, something that was done regularly by the Obama administration but has since ended since President Trump took office. It would also mandate the release of visitor logs at other locations where the president conducts business — for example, Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort that he has recently called the Southern White House.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), the lawmaker who introduced that legislation released a statement on his Facebook page:
“This stunning decision from the Trump White House raises an obvious question: what is President Trump trying to hide? Once again, this administration is stonewalling information that Congress and the American people have a right to see,” he began.
Continuing, he wrote:
Americans simply deserve to know who has access to the president and who is working to influence policy at the highest levels. The president brings unprecedented conflicts of interest to the White House, and he already has taken actions in office that suggest he is more concerned with helping people like him – the wealthy and well–connected – than he is with empowering ordinary Americans. By refusing to release the White House visitor logs, President Trump is confirming widespread concerns that the special interests are getting special treatment in this administration.
The president’s promise to ‘drain the swamp’ has never rung more hollow than it does today. If President Trump won’t release this critical information on his own, then Congress must compel him to do so.
He went on to renew his call for immediate passage of the MAR-A-LAGO Act in light of this new revelation.
Business Insider reports that “Earlier this week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued the Department of Homeland Security — which is the department containing the Secret Service — for the visitor logs at the White House, Mar-a-Lago, and Trump Tower.”
CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder released the following statement on their website in response to the White House’s decision to break six years of tradition and refuse to release White House visitor logs:
It’s disappointing that the man who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ just took a massive step away from transparency by refusing to release the White House visitor logs that the American people have grown accustomed to accessing over the last six years and that provide indispensable information about who is seeking to influence the president. The Obama administration agreed to release the visitor logs in response to our lawsuits, and despite the Trump administration’s worry over ‘grave national security risks and concerns,’ only positives for the American people came out of them. This week, we sued the Trump administration to make sure they would continue to release the logs. It looks like we’ll see them in court.