White House decides against releasing visitor records

Posted April 15, 2017

The "national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually" overruled skeptics from transparency groups who wanted a complete and open logbook. They argued that the decision is in line with what previous administrations have done, except for President Barack Obama's, and that continuing Obama's practice of releasing the records could interfere with policy development.

After some litigation, the Obama White House began releasing the visitor records late in 2009, Obama's first year in office. The Obama administration eventual released almost 6 million visitor records.

"By instituting historic restrictions on lobbying to close the revolving door, expanding and elevating ethics within the White House Counsel's office, and opening the White House press briefing room to media outlets that otherwise can not gain access, the Trump administration has broken new ground in ensuring our government is both ethical and accessible to the American people", Michael Dubke, White House communications director, said in a statement explaining the decision.

"By instituting historic restrictions on lobbying to close the revolving door, expanding and elevating ethics within the White House Counsel's office, and opening the White House press briefing room to media outlets that otherwise can not gain access, the Trump administration has broken new ground in ensuring our government is both ethical and accessible to the American people", Dubke said in the statement.

White House officials argued that the new policy is needed to help the president meet freely with outside advisers.

In 2009, Obama chose to make his visitor logs public after four similar lawsuits by CREW.

"Trump [White House] cites "grave national security risks" in releasing info [that] Obama made public for 7 years without incident", the National Security Archive tweeted Friday. It continued to release the records even though a federal appeals court ruled in 2013 that the logs can be withheld under presidential executive privilege. The White House did not say who would maintain custody of the records during his time in office.

Logs for the Office of Management and Budget, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy remain subject to FOIA requests, officials said, but will not be unilaterally disclosed. White House officials said they expect that court to reach the same conclusion as the D.C. circuit, but suggested it would seek to litigate to preserve its ability to keep the records secret if necessary.

Let us hope Trump is more successful in cracking down on the bureaucracy.

In this photo taken February 2, 2017, the White House in Washington. Usually, with some exemptions, such information is in the visitor logs. Throughout the campaign Trump pledged to defend the Second Amendment and on October 9, 2016, he promised to nominate a justice would protect gun rights from " people like Hillary Clinton".

"The president's promise to "drain the swamp" has never rung more hollow than it does today", he added.

In a statement, White House Communications Director Michael Dubke rejected claims that the administration is attempting to avoid public scrutiny. "In our view, the Freedom of Information Act requires the government to make this information available to the public".