White House defends keeping visitor logs secret

The White House is defending its decision to not voluntarily disclose records of who is visiting the White House complex, a policy that breaks with the prior administration and has attracted criticism from government watchdog groups.

Press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that the White House will comply with federal records laws, while dismissing what he described as the Obama administration’s “faux attempt” at transparency.

“It's about following the law,” Spicer said. “We're following the law as both the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act prescribe it. It's the same policy that every administration had up until the Obama administration. The faux attempt that the Obama administration put out where they would scrub who they didn't want put out didn't serve anyone well.”

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“We maintain the same policy that every other administration did coming up here,” Spicer continued. “And the last one, frankly, was a faux level of doing that because when you go through and scrub everyone's name out you don't want everyone to know, that really is not an honest attempt at doing it. We're going to follow the law the way that every administration has followed up until the last one.”

Under the Trump administration’s policy, the records will be kept secret until five years after the president leaves office.

The White House has argued that “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually” provoked its stance on keeping the records secret for now.

The Obama administration decided to disclose its visitor logs after a raft of lawsuits filed against former President George W. Bush. The Obama-era records were posted online on a monthly basis, but there were exceptions carved out for “purely personal guests of the first and second families” and “records related to a small group of particularly sensitive meetings.”

“You don't know who got left off and who didn't,” Spicer said Monday. “They chose to not put people out for whatever reason and they gave an excuse and no one questioned it. We're going to have the same policy that every president has had through time and comply with the law on both fronts.”