President Donald Trump has pledged to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington — but the public will just have to trust him on that, because he’s drawing a cloak of secrecy over his White House visitor logs.
The Trump Administration announced Friday it is halting former President Barack Obama’s policy of releasing the names of most visitors to the White House complex. The administration cited “grave national security risks and privacy concerns.”
Trump has been keeping his visitor logs secret since he took office in January.
Just this week, the Trump administration was slapped with a lawsuit over its secrecy policy. On Monday, the National Security Archive, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, as well as the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, filed a lawsuit accusing the White House of violating the Freedom of Information Act by keeping the logs secret.
The lawsuit not only seeks the names of visitors to the White House, but also the names of visitors to Trump’s “Southern White House” in Mar-a-Lago.
In contrast, the Obama White House released the names of nearly 6 million visitors, including scores of lobbyists, over eight years.
But Obama also was hit with an open records lawsuit before he started releasing visitor names.
“The only excuse for this policy is that the Trump administration has something to hide,” said David Donnelly, president and chief executive of Every Voice. “This kind of secrecy will allow big donors, lobbyists and special interests to have unknown levels of influence in the White House.”
“It’s the exact opposite of ‘draining the swamp,’ ” Donnelly added, referring to Trump’s pledge to usher in a more ethical and less corrupt era in Washington.
Norman Eisen, a former Obama ethics counsel and architect of his visitor log policy, called Trump’s decision “a disaster,” arguing it will ultimately be damaging to the new administration.
“It will encourage meetings to happen that shouldn’t happen because they can remain hidden from public view,” Eisen said.