The White House has announced that it is putting an end to voluntarily revealing the names of visitors to the President’s home in Washington, D.C. The practice was put in place during the administration of former President Barack Obama. The only official reason cited by White House communications director Mike Dubke for this change in policy was “grave national security risks and privacy concerns”. Sources within the White House say another reason could be saving $70,000, the cost of maintaining the public guest logs in a presidential term.
This is only another in a long line of decisions that mark the significant decrease in transparency between the Obama administration and the administration of current President Donald Trump. Under Obama’s leadership, the White House revealed over 6 million names of visitors, lobbyists included. The average waiting time in disclosure of visitors during the Obama administration was 90 to 120 days after a visit. On the other hand, Trump’s administration is only committing to making visitors’ names public once Trump leaves office.
“The only excuse for this policy is that the Trump administration has something to hide. This kind of secrecy will allow big donors, lobbyists and special interests to have unknown levels of influence in the White House. It’s the exact opposite of ‘draining the swamp,’” said David Donnelly, president of government watchdog Every Voice. Indeed, criticisms have been coming from many transparency groups at this decision.
Trump aides point out that the Obama administration in 2012 successfully defended in court the principle that White House logs were not required to be disclosed, and that it was a voluntary decision. That came on the heels of reports that Obama did indeed refuse to disclose the names of more sensitive visits. Back in 2012, Trump tweeted about that, saying, “Why is @BarackObama spending millions to try and hide his records? He is the least transparent President – ever – and he ran on transparency.”