Several government watchdog groups have filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump for refusing to release visitor logs of the White House and his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Under former President Barack Obama, the White House visitor logs were released to the public after a similar lawsuit was filed in 2009 and the watchdog groups want this practice to continue, reported the Washington Post.
"It is crucial to understand who is potentially influencing the decision-making of the president, particularly when you have a White House that tends to lean toward secret decision-making," said Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, one of the groups that have joined the lawsuit against Trump.
The other groups include the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute, according to CNN.
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"We’re only asking for the same Secret Service data that Obama published routinely," said Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive.
The White House visitor logs were used by reporters to determine which influence-makers, including Washington lobbyists and business leaders, were meeting with the Obama administration.
Although the Obama administration agreed to release White House visitor logs and even created a website where those records could be viewed, it isn't clear whether those records must be released to the public by law, or whether the Trump administration might decide to follow his predecessor's practice.
In 2013, federal judge Merrick Garland -- who was later nominated to the Supreme Court by Obama -- ruled that White House visitor logs are not public record under the Freedom of Information Act.
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"Where Congress has intentionally excluded a governmental entity from the Act, we have been unwilling to conclude that documents or information of that entity can be obtained indirectly, by filing a FOIA request with an entity that is covered under that statute," Garland wrote, according to Politico. "At bottom, we do not believe Congress intended that FOIA requesters be able to obtain from the gatekeepers of the White House what they are unable to obtain from its occupants."
Andrew H. Card Jr., chief of staff under former President George W. Bush, had a similar viewpoint.
"I tend to feel it’s the prerogative of the White House to have people come visit, and the public doesn’t need to know who they are," Card told the Washington Post. "We don’t have a log on everybody who visits Congress, and they’re a coequal branch of government."