President Trump had previously criticized the Obama administration for a lack of transparency.
The Trump administration will not make its records of visitors to the White House available to the public, Time and The Washington Post reported Friday.
The decision is a departure from the Obama administration, which did release the logs. Michael Dubke, the White House communications director, told Time that the White House’s decision was made out of concern for national security and privacy, and to protect President Donald Trump’s ability to discreetly seek counsel.
Citing “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually,” the White House said in a statement that it would “disclose Secret Service logs as outlined under the Freedom of Information Act.”
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) April 14, 2017
The logs will remain private until five years after Trump leaves office, Time reported.
The White House says it will honor public information requests to parts of the White House legally classified as agencies, such as the Office of Management and Budget, according to the Post.
While the Obama administration did release its visitor logs, they were often incomplete and officials had ways of keeping visitors’ names off them.
Trump has faced numerous questions about potential conflicts of interest after refusing to release his tax returns. Trump, who as a candidate pledged to “drain the swamp” of Washington insiders, had previously accused then-President Barack Obama of a lack of transparency.
Why is @BarackObama spending millions to try and hide his records? He is the least transparent President–ever–and he ran on transparency.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2012
Visits to the White House became a matter of particular interest after Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) met with sources on White House grounds who supposedly told him the Trump campaign had been caught up in government surveillance of Trump Tower. Nunes refused to reveal his White House sources, but they were later revealed to be Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director of intelligence on the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office. Classified documents have shown no evidence that the Obama administration did anything unusual.
Time notes that “three White House officials said they expect criticism of the new policy, but believe it is necessary to preserve the ability of the president to seek advice from whomever he wants, ‘with some discretion.’”
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) sharply criticized the news on Friday.
Once again, the Trump White House is stonewalling information that Congress and the American people have a right to see.
— Tom Udall (@SenatorTomUdall) April 14, 2017
Faiz Shakir, national political director of the ACLU, said in a statement that “the only reasonable conclusion is to believe the Trump administration has many things it is trying to hide.”
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said his group would fight the Trump administration in court to release the records.
“It’s disappointing that the man who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ just took a massive step away from transparency by refusing the release the White House visitor logs that the American people have grown accustomed to accessing over the last six years and that provide indispensable information about who is seeking to influence the president,” Bookbinder said in a statement.
“The Obama administration agreed to release the visitor logs in response to our lawsuits, and despite the Trump administration’s worry over ‘grave national security risks and concerns,’ only positives for the American people came out of them,” he went on. “This week, we sued the Trump administration to make sure they would continue to release the logs. It looks like we’ll see them in court.”
(HuffPost referring Time and Washington Post contributed to this story; material added from Twitter also)