Saturday, May 15, 2021

Biden Admin Can’t Access or Release Trump’s White House Visitor Logs

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The Biden White House said it cannot make the Trump White House’s visitor logs public because it lacks access to the records.

“We cannot,” press secretary Jen Psaki said, stating that the records fall “under the purview of the National Archives.”

Access to the Trump White House’s visitor logs ended shortly after Trump took office.

At the time, the White House framed the matter as one of national security.

Psaki said the Biden administration plans to release the logs quarterly, “just as the Obama-Biden administration did.”

Yet, they have not released anything yet.

The Obama administration released most records after initially refusing, with exceptions for the identities of the then-president’s daughters’ friends or visitors attending national security or intelligence meetings.

The Trump administration largely followed this procedure, and now it is all of a sudden an issue.

While the White House is not subject to public disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act, transparency groups criticized Trump for his policy and sued his administration for access.

A decision last year by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Trump policy and ruled to keep the names of visitors hidden for a minimum of five years from his last day in office.

A court ruled in Judicial Watch v. U.S. Secret Service in 2013 that the White House could keep logs secret.

Then-District Judge Merrick Garland, a Clinton nominee, stated in part that allowing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the logs “could substantially affect the president’s ability to meet confidentially with foreign leaders, agency officials, or members of the public.”

A woman challenged the Trump administration’s shielding of logs in 2017 after her FOIA request was denied. An appeals court upheld the 2013 decision.

“We conclude that the visitor logs that the plaintiffs seek are not agency 2 records subject to FOIA and that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim under” the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act, the judges wrote.

The ruling came after the administration settled a separate suit, agreeing to publish some logs. Those included visitors to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Psaki’s assertion that the Biden administration doesn’t have access to the logs came a day after she said she hadn’t had a chance to talk with team members about whether they had access.

“I mean, we obviously know what information is put in from visits—people who come to visit, and we have the ability to release that over the coming months. I’m not aware of an assessment of that, but I will also ask our team if we have access to them or if there’s a plan to look at them,” she said

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