The Trump administration has agreed to settle a pending lawsuit by making monthly public postings of details on visitors to some parts of the White House, such as the Office of Management and Budget and the drug czar’s office.
However, there is no sign the Trump White House plans to reverse its decision to abandon the Obama administration’s policy of releasing information on visitors to the White House’s core offices, including the senior officials in the West Wing.
The non-profit group Public Citizen filed suit last August, arguing that the Secret Service had illegally rebuffed requests for visitor logs for White House offices covered by the Freedom of Information Act.
While White House offices closely advising the president are exempt from the disclosure law, those divisions with independent statutory responsibility and Senate-confirmed leaders are subject to FOIA. However, all White House offices use the same Secret Service-run system to visitors.
The Secret Service initially contended that it was unable to separate out the records of visits to the four FOIA-covered offices: OMB, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
However, in response to the suit, the White House has agreed to a system where batches of records will be sent from the Secret Service to White House information technology personnel, who will sort the visitor requests based on White House email address and send the data to OMB or the applicable White House office, which will then post it.
The process could result in the visitor records for those four offices being posted sooner than they were under the Obama administration, although the records will provide little, if any, insight into the activities of President Donald Trump and his closest advisers.
However, Public Citizen’s Robert Weissman said the arrangement would provide useful information about some seeking to wield influence on the White House.
“The Trump administration aimed to keep secret the names of the people visiting the White House in order to keep the public in the dark about the corporate takeover of our government,” Weissman said. “Now we’ll at least have a window into the corporate and ideological lobbyists who are driving Trump administration policy.”
The government also agreed to pay $35,000 in legal fees to Public Citizen as part of the settlement.
Spokespeople for the White House, the Secret Service and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.