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Trump Administration Withholds Mar-a-Lago Visitor Logs

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The Trump administration has declined to release all of the visitor logs from President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. 

The Department of Homeland Security only disclosed the names of several visitors to the private club, bucking a court order for an extensive list. Ethics watchdog groups have have vowed to pursue a lawsuit for the remaining records.

On Sept. 15, the Trump administration disclosed the names of 22 visitors to Mar-a-Lago, the president' private resort in Palm Beach, Florida, CNN reports. Watchdog groups voiced outrage over the partial disclosure.

On April 10, three government ethics groups filed a lawsuit against the DHS after the groups' Freedom of Information Act request for visitor logs from the White House, Trump Tower in Manhattan and Mar-a-Lago went unanswered. The groups include Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, according to New York Daily News.

On July 17, a U.S. District Court judge in New York ruled that the Secret Service would have to turn over the records of Mar-a-Lago visitors to the watchdog groups by Sept. 8.

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"We are glad that as a result of this case, this information will become public for meetings at his personal residences, but it needs to be public for meetings at the White House as well," CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said after the ruling, according to NBC News.

U.S. Department of Justice lawyers successfully argued to extend the deadline for the Mar-a-Lago disclosure by one week. On Sept. 15, DHS only released the names of 22 staffers of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who had accompanied him during his visit to Mar-a-Lago in February. The Trump administration had been ordered to disclose all Mar-a-Lago visitors from January 20 through March 8. DOJ attorneys announced that they would not disclose any more visitor logs.

"The remaining records that the Secret Service has processed in response to the Mar-a-Lago request contain, reflect, or otherwise relate to the President's schedules," DOJ lawyers wrote in a cover letter attached to the disclosures, CNN notes. "The government believes that presidential schedule information is not subject to FOIA."

National Security Archive Director Tom Blanton blasted the partial disclosure and asserted that the White House may have prevented the disclosure of more records.

"Trump's secrecy rides again ... I can only conclude the Trump White House intervened with the career lawyers," Blanton told USA Today.

Bookbinder pledged to seek the remaining records in court, CNN reports.

"After waiting months for a response to our request for comprehensive visitor logs from the president's multiple visits to Mar-a-Lago and having the government ask for a last-minute extension, today we received 22 names from the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to Mar-a-Lago and nothing else," Bookbinder said in a statement.

"The government seriously misrepresented their intentions to both us and the court," Bookbinder added. "This was spitting in the eye of transparency. We will be fighting this in court."

CREW had previously sued the Obama administration over transparency, prompting the White House to begin publishing visitor logs in 2009. On April 14, the Trump administration discontinued the policy, citing national security concerns. At the time, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch accused the White House of concealing who had access to the president.

"This new secrecy policy undermines the rule of law and suggests this White House doesn't want to be accountable to the American people," Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton told The New York Times.

Trump has spent 25 days at Mar-a-Lago since assuming office, according to CNN's count.

Sources: CNN, New York Daily News, NBC NewsThe New York TimesUSA Today / Featured Image: Sergio_leenen/Flickr / Embedded Images: Shealah Craighead/The White House/Flickr, Myles Cullen​/The White House/Flickr

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