A coalition of transparency advocacy groups filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to compel President Trump’s protective detail to turn over the names of individuals that he is meeting.
The scope of the FOIA action includes visitor names and the dates they met with the President at the White House and at other Trump residences: Mar-a-Lago in Florida, and Trump Tower in New York.
The lawsuit was initiated by the liberal non-profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The National Security Archive and Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute are plaintiffs alongside CREW.
The US Secret Service, under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, maintains the logs. The agency, according to CREW, “has refused to turn them over in response to FOIA requests.”
CREW’s Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a press release that that they “had no choice but to sue.”
“We hoped that the Trump administration would follow the precedent of the Obama administration and continue to release visitor logs, but unfortunately they have not,” he added.
Former President Obama, several months into his first term, agreed to release White House visitor logs on a monthly basis, following a similar lawsuit by CREW. The group is now seeking those same records, in addition to the comings-and-goings at Trump’s private properties in Manhattan and Palm Beach.
National Security Archive Director Tom Blanton noted that “President Obama routinely released the data we’re seeking with no damage to presidential privilege.”
The lawsuit includes a request for records dating back to the Obama administration. The FOIA request was first made on January 23, seeking records about a Mexican delegation that visited the White House prior to Trump’s inauguration.
Referenced in the legal filing is a letter that eight Democratic Senators wrote to the White House in March, calling on it to continue to the Obama administration’s tradition of rolling visitor log releases. The lawmakers also inquired with Secret Service about the screening measures for private members of Mar-a-Lago.
Their letter specifically mentioned an incident at one of Trump’s golf clubs in Bedminster, NJ, when audio leaked of then President-elect Trump “inviting members to ‘come around’ as he interviews people to serve in his administration.”
Democrats have been raising the issue of Trump’s associations both during the transition period, as guests were shuffled in and out of Trump Towers to meet the incoming President, and after he assumed office.
Adding fuel to suspicions about Trump’s contacts is an active FBI investigation announced last month by James Comey. The Bureau’s director informed Congress that federal investigators are looking into whether associates of Trump’s presidential campaign were coordinating with alleged Russian efforts to interfere in the US presidential election.