The federal government released only 22 names in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by several political ethics watchdog groups seeking to find out who visited Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s Florida resort.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the National Security Archive (NSA), and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University have been seeking the records, with the intent to publish them.
The watchdog groups were scheduled to receive the visitor logs on Friday as part of a lawsuit. Instead, the government sent them 22 names of those who traveled to Mar-a-Lago for the Japanese prime minister’s trip in February.
“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,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “The government does not believe that they need to release any further Mar-a-Lago visitor records. We vehemently disagree. 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.”
BREAKING: After an extension, at the last minute the government only turned over 22 names from Mar-a-Lago. We'll be fighting this in court.— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) September 15, 2017
National Security Archive Director Tom Blanton accused the Trump administration from intervening in the disclosure effort.
“The government misled the plaintiffs and the court,” Blanton said in a statement. “I can only conclude that the Trump White House intervened and overrode career lawyers.”
In a letter accompanying the released visitor logs, Department of Justice attorneysChad Readler, acting assistant attorney general, and Joon Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the other records were not subject to FOIA.
“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,” the letter reads. “The government believes that Presidential schedule information is not subject to FOIA.”
Earlier this year, the Trump administration said it would keep the visitor logs of the White House a secret to protect the privacy of those who visited. The logs, which are compiled by the U.S. Secret Service, would be kept secret until five years after Trump leaves office.
Former President Barack Obama’s administration did make many White House visitor logs public after first attempting to keep them private.