Ethics groups file lawsuit demanding White House visitor logs

A trio of open-government groups sued the Trump administration on Monday, arguing that the administration's refusal to release visitor logs for the White House violated the Freedom of Information Act.

Following a 2009 negotiation, the Obama White House ultimately disclosed some 6 million visitors in logs kept by the Secret Service and released every 90 to 120 days.

An ethics group, 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 government Monday in NY federal court.

"‶We're only asking for the same Secret Service data that Obama published routinely", said Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive. LawNewz.com reached out to DHS for comment, but they have yet to respond.

Under former President Barack Obama, the White House visitor logs were released to the public after a similar lawsuit was filed in 2009 and the watchdog groups want this practice to continue, reported the Washington Post.

Filing the new lawsuit in Manhattan, as opposed to Washington, allows CREW the chance to circumvent more stringent D.C. regulations such as the access law, which protects "federal government agencies but not the White House itself".

Unlike Obama, however, Trump owns several large properties and clubs where people come and go without the traditional detailed registration required at the White House.

"It is crucial to understand who is potentially influencing the decision-making of the president, particularly when you have a White House that tends to lean toward secret decision-making", Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told The Washington Post.

President Trump has frequently met with world leaders at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, most recently when he conferred with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.

"This is a case about the public's right to know who wields influence over the most powerful office in our government", said Alex Abdo, a senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment.

  • Leroy Wright