U.S.

White House decides against releasing visitor records

White House decides against releasing visitor records

The White House said Friday that lists of visitors to the building will be kept secret, breaking with the practice of President Donald Trump's predecessor.

In March, eight US senators wrote letters to Trump and Secret Service Director William J. Callahan and urged them to continue Obama's open records policy.

The Trump team's decision came days after three groups filed suit against the administration demanding release of visitor records to the White House, Trump Tower in NY, and the president's Mar-A-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

Under Obama, the White House made the logs available for public review only after certain security standards were met.

Former President Barack Obama did not pledge to release these records until eight months into his presidency.

White House communications director Michael Dubke said Trump has already taken steps to improve the ethical climate in Washington, such as imposing new restrictions on lobbying by departing White House officials and opening the White House press briefing room to outlets that previously didn't have access. Additionally, Trump "officials have also signaled that they may no longer defend the Army Corps of Engineers' ban on carrying loaded firearms and ammunition on federal lands".

A group of people touring the White House had an unexpected meeting with none other than the president himself.

The Obama administration initially fought attempts by Congress and conservative and liberal groups to obtain visitor records. "This week, we sued the Trump administration to make sure they would continue to release the logs".

"It would be a significant setback to efforts to give the public insight into who influences the White House if this policy were to be discontinued or limited", the letter to Callahan stated.

However, visitor logs for White House agencies, such as the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Trade Representative, may be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

On Friday, Dubke defended the White House's decision by citing other areas he said was demonstrating new levels of transparency.

"This stunning decision to withhold White House visitor logs raises an obvious question - what is President Trump trying to hide?" 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. Usually, with some exemptions, such information is in the visitor logs.


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