The White House announced on Friday that it will not voluntarily release visitor logs, breaking a practice that Obama put into effect during his last six years in office.
A statement released by White House communications director Mike Dubke cited the reason for not disclosing the records to be “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.”
The Hill reports that some records of visitors to White House departments will be made available through Freedom of Information Act requests, though the majority of visitors that apply to the president and his senior staff will not be included.
Under the Trump administration’s policy, the records will be kept secret until five years after the president leaves office.
Speculation had been mounting about how Trump would handle future records, especially since a section of the White House website where the visitor logs were previously posted has been left blank since Trump took office.
Former President Obama implemented the practice of disclosing visitor logs in response to a series of lawsuits that began under George W. Bush. Records were made available online every month for people who visited 90 to 120 days prior.
Exceptions were granted for “purely personal guests of the first and second families” and “records related to a small group of particularly sensitive meetings,” which often incited criticism over what could be categorized as such and if the administration was being transparent enough about which visitors were being publically disclosed.
After news broke about Trump’s White House keeping the visitor logs under wraps, several watchdog organizations immediately fired back, arguing that Americans have a right to know who is visiting the White House.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was among the growing list of those outraged by Trump’s decision to conceal visitor logs, calling his action “simply the latest in a series of efforts by President Trump to avoid public accountability, and it’s not the way to improve the people’s declining trust in this administration.”
ACLU Director Faiz Shakir issued the following statement Friday afternoon: “Elected officials work for the people and we deserve to see government business conducted in transparent daylight.”
The non-profit organization went on to criticize Trump for failing to disclose his tax returns, citing false news reports and cutting down mainstream media, all of which they consider to be a lack of transparency on the president’s part.
“Trump has bullied the press when they report on him. He has promoted the reporting of fake and outright false information. He imposed gags on federal employees in the earliest days of his administration. He has avoided disclosing his tax records, and he has avoided releasing information about his conflicts of interest.”
Shakir concluded the statement saying, “The only reasonable conclusion is to believe the Trump administration has many things it is trying to hide.”
Three organizations have reportedly taken legal action again the Trump administration this week and have demanded that all visitor logs be released.
“It’s disappointing that the man who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ just took a massive step away from transparency by refusing the release the White House visitor logs that the American people have grown accustomed to accessing over the last six years,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Bookbinder added that the records “provide indispensable information about who is seeking to influence the president.”
Social media users are also trolling Trump for his decision to keep some visitor logs private and are rehashing old Tweets he posted about Obama.
— NatlSecurityArchive (@NSArchive) April 14, 2017
H/T: The Hill
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