Of­fi­cials won’t make visi­tors’ names pub­lic

Crit­ics blast de­ci­sion, call choice un­eth­i­cal

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVE BOYER

The White House said it will no longer make pub­lic the names of visi­tors to the White House com­plex, break­ing with the prac­tice of Pres­i­dent Trump’s pre­de­ces­sor.

Se­nior White House of­fi­cials con­firmed Fri­day that they won’t re­lease vis­i­tor logs due to pri­vacy and na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns, say­ing the move is con­sis­tent with the prac­tice of all pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions — ex­cept for Pres­i­dent Obama’s.

White House Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor Michael Dubke cited “grave na­tional se­cu­rity risks and pri­vacy con­cerns of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of visi­tors an­nu­ally.”

“The White House Of­fice will dis­close Se­cret Ser­vice logs as out­lined un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, a po­si­tion the Obama White House suc­cess­fully de­fended in fed­eral court,” Mr. Dubke said.

But the Obama White House, af­ter some lit­i­ga­tion, posted the records of visi­tors on­line in a search­able data­base — nearly 6 mil­lion names in all. The pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion deleted some names from the logs for na­tional se­cu­rity and other rea­sons.

Nev­er­the­less, Mr. Dubke said the Trump White House has been set­ting new stan­dards of trans­parency.

“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,” Mr. Dubke said in a state­ment.

Gov­ern­ment watch­dog groups blasted the de­ci­sion.

“The only rea­son to keep se­cret the White House vis­i­tor logs is to hide from the Amer­i­can pub­lic the cor­po­rate in­flu­ence-ped­dlers who are seek­ing fa­vors and gifts from the White House,” said Robert Weiss­man, pres­i­dent of Pub­lic Cit­i­zen. “More se­crecy equals more crony­ism, more in­sider deal­ing and more cor­rup­tion.”

Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor Faiz Shakir said cit­i­zens “de­serve to see gov­ern­ment busi­ness con­ducted in trans­par­ent day­light.”

“This ‘Good Fri­day’ news dump is sim­ply the lat­est in a se­ries of ef­forts by Pres­i­dent Trump to avoid pub­lic ac­count­abil­ity, and it’s not the way to im­prove the peo­ple’s de­clin­ing trust in this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said. “Trump has bul­lied the press when they re­port on him. He has pro­moted the re­port­ing of fake and out­right false in­for­ma­tion. He im­posed gags on fed­eral em­ploy­ees in the ear­li­est days of his ad­min­is­tra­tion. He has avoided dis­clos­ing his tax records, and he has avoided re­leas­ing in­for­ma­tion about his con­flicts of in­ter­est. The only rea­son­able con­clu­sion is to be­lieve the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has many things it is try­ing to hide.”

Com­mon Cause Vice Pres­i­dent Paul S. Ryan called the move “just the lat­est ex­am­ple of a dis­turb­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pat­tern of with­hold­ing from the pub­lic in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing ev­ery­thing from the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal busi­ness deal­ings and tax re­turns to his late night White House visi­tors like House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Devin Nunes.”

David Don­nelly, pres­i­dent and CEO of Ev­ery Voice, said the “only ex­cuse for this pol­icy is that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has some­thing to hide.”

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