Trump administration refusing to release full Mar-a-Lago visitor records despite court order, says watchdog

The watchdog group previously sued the Obama administration for visitor log information

Clark Mindock
New York
Friday 15 September 2017 18:52 BST
Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida
Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A top ethics watchdog in Washington has a pretty simple message for Donald Trump: “See you in court, Mr President.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew) tweeted that line after the federal government released just 22 names of people who had visited the President in his Mar-a-Lago resort, and after a months-long legal battle to get the names. Crew was expecting a much fuller list of those who have gained access to the President.

“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,” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Crew, said in a statement.

Mr Trump isn’t the only president in modern history to resist disclosing visitor records. Barack Obama’s administration faced pushback after his 2008 election victory when it decided not to disclose visitors to the White House. Crew sued then as well, and the Obama administration settled in 2009, promising to begin regularly releasing visitor log information.

“The government does not believe that they need to release any further Mar-a-Lago visitor records. We vehemently disagree,” Mr Bookbinder continued. “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.”

Mr Trump has been criticised by ethics groups before as well for his refusal to divest from his vast business holdings upon taking office. The President’s lawyer said that his decision to put his adult children in charge of the businesses addresses those potential conflicts of interest.

The Justice Department indicated, in a letter, that there were other records but that the department does not think those records are subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

“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,“ Chad Readler, acting assistant attorney general, and Joon Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote. ”The government believes that Presidential schedule information is not subject to FOIA.“

Litigation related to the records is ongoing. The Department of Homeland Security says that it does not have records kept for Mr Trump’s home in New York City.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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