There are two chunks of information Donald Trump could easily release, and probably should, but somehow refuses to under any circumstances. One would be his tax returns. The other is a list of who exactly is visiting his palatial Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. Despite a federal court order, Trump is refusing to comply with the request for a list of who has hobnobbed with the President at what he calls the Winter White House.
“The government does not believe that they need to release any further Mar-a-Lago visitor records. We vehemently disagree.” That’s from a statement by Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the organization suing the White House over the list. He added, “The government seriously misrepresented their intentions to both us and the court. This was spitting in the eye of transparency.”
The concerns over Trump’s conflicts of interest and failure to fully divest himself from the business empire that bears his name are many. But because Trump has been so insistent on conducting so much presidential business from Mar-a-Lago, the visitor list issue is particularly emblematic of Trump’s ongoing ethical quandaries. That makes the Justice Department’s response all the more surprising. From Bookbinder, via the New York Times:
“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.”
It’s not like CREW is trying to violate the privacy of every Mar-a-Lago guest. They have only requested visitor logs for those who have appeared at Mar-a-Lago specifically to see Trump. Judge Katherine Polk Failla agreed with CREW’s argument that the lists ultimately fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security and are therefore available for request under the Freedom of Information Act.
But the White House has a counter argument. “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,” explained Chad A. Readler, acting assistant attorney general in response to the CREW request. “The government believes that presidential schedule information is not subject to FOIA.” That will be further decided in court.
(Via the New York Times)