The White House announced Friday it will no longer release the names of visitors coming in and out of the people's house.
The move breaks with eight years of policy under former President Barack Obama. There were some exceptions to Obama's White House visitor log policy, however. For example, the Obama administration did not release the names of school-aged children joining the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, for occasional sleepovers. Another exception was for the names of potential political appointees who came to the White House for job interviews, the Washington Post reported.
While the Obama administration claimed to release visitor records voluntarily, the Obama-era policy was actually the result of administration officials trying to settle a lawsuit against the George W. Bush administration. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington brought the suit.
Since President Donald Trump took office, the White House has not released any of the names of those meeting with the most powerful man in the world. According to Friday's announcement, those names will continue to be sealed because of “grave national security risks and privacy concerns.”
The new policy will not apply to offices located within the White House complex but are their own government agencies, separate and apart from the executive office of the president. Anyone visiting the Office of Management and Budget, for instance, will still be under public scrutiny.
The Post reported the reversal is expected to save American taxpayers around $70,000 by 2020 — roughly $17,500 per year.
The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for government transparency, tweeted Friday in response to the announcement, calling on Congress to require the White House to disclose who obtains access to the president.
Now that the @whitehouse decided to keep visitor logs secret, Congress should mandate disclosure.… https://t.co/qyS4JFs5cW— Sunlight Foundation (@Sunlight Foundation) 1492191858.0
The Sunlight Foundation declared in a separate tweet just minutes later that the Trump administration has "one of the worst" records in U.S. history when it comes to open government.
The Trump administration's announcement comes the same week that Politico reported the National Security Archive, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington announced they would file a lawsuit demanding that White House visitor logs be made public. The suit is expected to be filed Monday in a New York federal court.