The Trump administration has announced it will end the public release of White House visitor logs, bringing an end to a policy introduced during the Barack Obama presidency.
In a statement from their communications director, Michael Dubke, the White House claimed the logs presented “grave national security risks and privacy concerns,” adding that stopping their release was the only way Trump could confer with advisers “with some discretion.”
“By instituting historic restrictions on lobbying to close the revolving door, expanding and elevating ethics within the White House Counsel’s office, and opening the White House press briefing room to media outlets that otherwise cannot gain access, the Trump administration has broken new ground in ensuring our government is both ethical and accessible to the American people,” the statement continued.
From now on, only certain logs will be available through freedom of information requests, such as in the Office of Management and Budget. However, visits to the president and White House senior staff will not be logged.
The decision to end the logs release is predicated on a 2013 federal appeals court ruling that excludes the logs from the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds they could contain sensitive information.
Earlier this week, three separate organizations, (National Security Archive, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University) filed a lawsuit against the administration for failing to release their logs, with CREW’s executive director Noah Bookbinder arguing that they “provide indispensable information about who is seeking to influence the president.”
Under Barack Obama, over six million White House visits were recorded, as part of his attempt to run “the most transparent administration in history,” and are currently maintained by the secret service.
However, certain events were withheld from the logs, including visits from celebrities and high-profile donors, which a senior White House official described as an attempt to “create more of a façade of transparency rather than complete transparency.”