Trump administration withholds almost all Mar-a-Lago visitor logs

Posted at 4:03 PM, Sep 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-15 16:03:47-04

For weeks, ethics watchdog groups had a countdown clock on Twitter promising the public its first glimpse at who has been visiting President Donald Trump’s “Winter White House” at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year.

Instead, on Friday the Trump administration turned over a list of only 22 names of foreign dignitaries and staffers related to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s February trip to the Florida resort.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and two open government groups, the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute, filed suit against the Trump administration back in April seeking visitor logs for the White House, Trump Tower in New York, and Mar-a-Lago after the Department of Homeland Security refused to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Earlier this summer a federal judge in New York ordered Secret Service — a component of Homeland Security — to turn over all records for Mar-a-Lago from January 20, 2017, to March 8, 2017.

In a cover letter transmitting the 22 names to CREW on Friday, the Justice Department said that the remaining records would be withheld.

“The remaining records that the Secret Service has processed in response to the Mar-a-Lago request contain, reflect, or otherwise relate to the President’s schedules,” wrote Justice Department attorneys. “The government believes that presidential schedule information is not subject to FOIA.”

In response, CREW promised to head back to court.

“After waiting months for a response to our request for comprehensive visitor logs from the President’s multiple visits to Mar-a-Lago and having the government ask for a last-minute extension, today we received 22 names from the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to Mar-a-Lago and nothing else,” said CREW’s executive director, Noah Bookbinder, in a statement. “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.”

The court battle also continues for the records maintained in the Workers and Visitors Entry System, or WAVES, at the White House.

DHS claims that it has no records for visitors at Trump Tower.

The Trump administration announced in April that it would no longer publicly release White House visitor logs, citing “grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.”

CREW also brought several similar lawsuits against the Obama administration, which began releasing White House visitor records in September 2009 as part of a settlement.

Trump has spent 25 days as President at his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to CNN’s count.