On Monday, a new lawsuit will be filed in New York demanding that a log of all visitors to the White House and to President Trump’s Florida and New York homes be made available to the public.
The federal lawsuit will be filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan rather than Washington D.C. in an apparent attempt to go around a key legal precedent already decided in a prior case that heavily limits public access to view logs of visitors to the White House.
The New York suit argues that the Secret Service has violated the law by not yet responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for specifics on visitors to locations President Trump has visited since he took office in January.
In 2009, the Obama administration became the first to release logs of White House visits on a routine basis. These releases were deemed voluntary but were enacted to settle a lawsuit brought by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington which was seeking visitor logs from President George W. Bush’s administration.
The first suit ended in 2013 when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that records of most White House visitors did not fall under the Freedom of Information Act. Chief Judge Merrick Garland (who later was an unsuccessful Obama Supreme Court nominee) said such requests from the Secret Service equated to an end-run around the formation of access law, which was in place to cover federal agencies, not the White House.
Garland concluded, “At bottom, we do not believe Congress intended that FOIA requesters be able to obtain from the gatekeepers of the White House what they are unable to obtain from its occupants.”
The ruling concluded that the public could have access to individuals visiting agencies that were covered by FOIA but located on the White House grounds, such as the Office of Management and Budget.
As a result, during Obama’s term, logs of less-newsworthy visitors were released one month at a time — but three months after the visitors’ scheduled appointments at the White House.
Trump’s administration has not yet verified if it would continue this practice. However, a “Visitors Access Records” page is still available on the White House website, which states, “This page is being updated. It will post records of White House visitors on an ongoing basis, once they become available.”
In addition, if following the Obama 3-month schedule, the first logs would not be available until the end of April.
The new suit will be filed by the National Security Archive, archive researcher Kate Doyle, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, and CREW (the same group that sought the Bush-era records).
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