Trump’s White House will keep its guest book secret

President Trump listens during a news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in the White House on April 12, 2017.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

The Trump administration will keep secret the records of those who visit the White House, ending a practice started under the Obama administration of partially releasing visitor logs, a White House official said Friday.

Even though President Trump led chants of “drain the swamp” during the campaign and promised to protect government business from special interests, the decision makes it harder for the public to know who is influencing the president and his close advisors.

Keeping the visitor logs hidden from public view will protect the privacy of visitors and is meant to address security risks that may be posed if people are identified publicly as close to Trump, White House communications director Mike Dubke said Friday.


The public and the press will be able to file requests for the logs under the Freedom of Information Act, Dubke said. Such requests often require legal action that can delay the release of records for several years.

“Given the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, the White House Office will disclose Secret Service logs as outlined under the Freedom of Information Act, a position the Obama White House successfully defended in federal court,” Dubke said in a statement.

The U.S. Secret Service conducts background checks and keeps a list of all visitors to the 18-acre White House grounds.

The Obama administration voluntarily released some visitor records, but often omitted the names of visitors that Obama’s aides considered sensitive, such as candidates for judicial posts, as well as personal contacts, including celebrities and some Obama campaign donors. Obama began releasing partial visitor logs in late 2009 following lawsuits. The records were released two or three months after the visits and contained the name of each visitor, the date of entry to the White House grounds and who requested the visitor be allowed to enter.

Judicial Watch, a conservative group among the organizations that sued the Obama administration for the entry logs, directed its fire at Trump’s decision.

“This new secrecy policy undermines the rule of law and suggests this White House doesn’t want to be accountable to the American people,” Tom Fitton, the group’s president, said in a statement. The move is “perfectly in line with the policy of the Obama White House” to block the complete visitor records from being released, he added.

Watchdog groups also want to know more about whom Trump is meeting with during his regular weekend trips to his resort in Palm Beach, Fla.

Trump is spending the Easter weekend at Mar-a-Lago, his seventh trip to the members-only club since he became president. Critics are concerned that the public doesn’t know which club members and guests have access to the president while he is there. Trump has hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping, the president of China, at the resort while club members and guests were present.

Earlier this week, the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and two other groups filed suit in federal court in New York demanding the administration release the names of visitors to the White House, Trump Tower in New York City and Mar-a-Lago.

Twitter: @ByBrianBennett


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