30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

Trump Hides Mar-a-Lago Visitor Records

Published: Sep 15, 2017
Briefing Book #604

Edited by Lauren Harper and Tom Blanton

For further information, contact 202.994.7000 

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Trump Hides Mar-a-Lago Visitor Records

Washington, D.C., September 15, 2017 - The Department of Homeland Security today released exactly two pages of Mar-a-Lago presidential visitor records in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the National Security Archive, together with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

The only document the government released concerns the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - this after telling Judge Failla and the plaintiffs that DHS would produce all the visitor logs.

"The government misled the plaintiffs and the court," commented the National Security Archive’s Director Tom Blanton. "I can only conclude that the Trump White House intervened and overrode career lawyers."

The release, initially planned for September 8, comes one week behind schedule. Last Friday government lawyers requested a one-time extension for final review for the records.

President Trump spent 14 days at Mar-a-Lago over four separate visits during the first six weeks after Inauguration Day 2017, which is the period covered by the plaintiffs’ initial FOIA requests, including headline-making meetings with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, among others.

The suit, Doyle et al. v. DHS, was filed on April 10, 2017, in the federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. It seeks the Secret Service's White House visitor logs covering Inauguration Day through March 8, along with Secret Service records of presidential visitors at other Trump properties.

“The Obama administration released this data for seven years,” says the National Security Archive’s Kate Doyle, senior analyst working on US-Latin America policy. “But the Trump White House pulled all this information from the web and stuck it under a rock.”

Doyle, together with the Archive, the Knight Institute, and CREW, has since submitted new FOIA requests to the Secret Service for the presidential visitor records to Trump Tower and the five additional Trump golf clubs the president has visited through August.

The government has until the end of September to file declarations concerning the White House visitor logs, which remain at issue in the case.

“The Secret Service’s job vetting who visits the President doesn’t end when Trump goes golfing or visits one of his properties,” says Blanton. “And the public has a right to know who lobbies the President, whether it’s at the White House or the ‘Winter White House’ or the 18th hole.”