The Biden administration has announced that it will re-start the practice of disclosing the names of visitors to the White House in a reversal of former President Donald Trump’s decision to cease those routine releases, as the Daily Caller reports.
A White House press release issued last week boasted that the Biden administration would be “the first administration to post visitor logs from its first full year in office” and pledged that the disclosures would happen on a monthly basis.
The release added that the disclosures are intended as a way to make good “on President Biden’s commitment to restore integrity, transparency, and trust in government.”
Former President Trump halted the practice of visitor disclosures back in 2017, claiming that they were an infringement on privacy and that they implicated “grave national security risks.” The legality of the move was upheld by a federal court of appeals, which found that “Compelled disclosure of the visitor logs would affect a president’s ability to receive unfettered, candid counsel from outside advisors.”
However, the Trump administration did agree in 2018 to make monthly posts of certain visitor details pertaining to some parts of the White House, including the drug czar’s office and the Office of Management and Budget, as Politico reported at the time.
According to new reporting from Politico, the initial release from the Biden administration included 400 records dating from Jan. 20 through the end of that month. The records disclosed did not encompass those “related to purely personal guests of the First and Second Families,” or those “related to a small group of particularly sensitive meetings,” such as those related to potential Supreme Court nominees.
Though the Biden administration is touting the move as a win for increased transparency, things are not quite as open as they seem. Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the majority of White House meetings of late have been conducted virtually. However, the administration has thus far refused to release the identities of those attending those meetings, Politico added.
Despite intense curiosity over their contents, the Biden administration has made it clear that it is unable to release comprehensive visitor logs from the Trump years, as they are property of the National Archives, and Trump must grant permission for their publication.
The Biden administration cautioned that it would follow the Obama administration’s policy of withholding records that “implicate privacy, national security, or other concerns,” ensuring that there remains substantial leeway for the White House to keep secrets from the American people.