White House guest book for those seeing Trump will now be a secret
Then Obama administration would partially release visitor logs
The Trump administration will keep the records of who visits the White House secret, ending a practise started under the Obama administration of partially releasing visitor logs, a White House official said Friday.
Even though President Donald 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 advisers.
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 decision was immediately denounced by critics both on the left and the right.
“This new secrecy policy undermines the rule of law and suggests this White House doesn’t want to be accountable to the American people,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group.
“The only excuse for this policy is that the Trump administration has something to hide,” said David Donnelly, who heads Every Voice, a liberal group that tracks influence in politics. “This kind of secrecy will allow big donors, lobbyists and special interests to have unknown levels of influence in the White House.”
The public and the media 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 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 and personal contacts, including celebrities and some Obama campaign donors.