A Freedom of Information Act (FIOA) was submitted to the Trump administration, requesting the logs of visitors at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The administration responded with the release of a short list of visitors on Friday. The Justice Department said the remainder of the names will be withheld.
“The remaining records that the Secret Service has processed in response to the Mar-a-Lago contain, reflect, or otherwise relate to the President’s schedules,” wrote Char Readler, the acting assistant attorney general, and Joon Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“The government believes that Presidential schedule information is not subject to FOIA.”
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute have sued for logs to Trump Tower, the White House, and Mar-a-Lago to be released. The lawsuit on White House logs is pending, and the DHS claims to have no records of visitors to Trump Tower.
In July, CREW announced that the Department of Homeland Security would be turning over visitor logs to the Mar-a-Lago property by Sep. 8. They promised to then publicize the logs.
In response to the request, the department only turned over names of staff who accompanied the Japanese prime minister on his trip to the resort in February.
The department’s decision to withhold some names will likely be challenged. CREW, a left-leaning ethics group, released a statement which promised to continue the legal battle.
“The government does not believe that they need to release any further Mar-a-Lago visitor records. We vehemently disagree,” CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder said.
“The government seriously misrepresented their intentions to both us and the court. This was spitting in the eye of transparency. We will be fighting this in court.”
According to The Hill:
“Ethics groups have long sought to compel administrations to release their visitor logs in the name of transparency. The Obama administration ultimately began disclosing that information after a series of lawsuits carried over from former President George W. Bush’s administration.
“But those logs were not always all-encompassing, as media reports sometimes uncovered visits that were not listed on the public disclosures.
‘The push to publish the Trump administration’s visitor logs is a two-pronged challenge because the president has taken meetings both at the White House and at his various properties.”
In April, the White House announced that it would not voluntarily release visitor logs, breaking a practice that Obama put into effect during his last six years in office. A statement released by former 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 records will remain secret until five years after the president’s final term expires.
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer addressed the topic during a press briefing on April 17, saying the Trump administration is following the law as it relates to disclosing White House visitors.
“We’re following the law, as both the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act prescribe it. It’s the same policy that every administration had up until the Obama administration. The faux attempt that the Obama administration put out, where they would scrub who they didn’t want [to be] put out, didn’t serve anyone well.”
He continued, “We maintain the same policy that every other administration did coming up here.”
Regarding the visitor records at Mar-a-Lago, The Hill reports:
“Complicating the release is that while Mar-a-Lago has increased security and Secret Service protection, it still houses a private club with its own membership along with Trump’s residence. Various events, including balls and weddings, are held on the premises, meaning there’s far more access to the club than to the White House complex, which meticulously screens every person allowed inside.”
On Friday, the names the administration released all related to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit in February. At that meeting, the two leaders were faced with responding to a missile test by North Korea.
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