How Transparent Is Trump? Mar-a-Lago Visitor Logs to Be Released, Thanks to Lawsuit

Mar A Lago
Thanks to a lawsuit from an ethics group, the Trump administration is about to get a little more transparent: The Mar-a-Lago visitor logs will be released. Carlos Barria/Reuters

The Trump administration has done much to shroud itself from public view. Cameras have been banned from press conferences. Journalists from prominent news outlets have been barred from attending briefings. The visitor logs from the White House, Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago, Trump's "winter White House" in Palm Beach, Florida, have not been made public.

Now, the latter effort to avoid transparency has been at least partially thwarted. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) on Monday announced that on September 8 it will obtain the visitor logs from Mar-a-Lago and subsequently make them public.

Related: Should Trump pay for Mar-a-Lago trips? Democrats aim to force it

Access to Mar-a-Lago's visitor logs comes by way of a lawsuit filed in April against the Department of Homeland Security. Along with the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, CREW sued the DHS to obtain the visitor records for Mar-a-Lago, the White House and Trump Tower. The lawsuit is still pending in regard to the White House, and the DHS has said it does not have records of visitors to Trump Tower.

"The public deserves to know who is coming to meet with the president and his staff," CREW's executive director, Noah Bookbinder, said in a statement. "We are glad 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 brought lawsuits against the Obama administration for similar reasons, and the White House logs became public in September 2009. "We hoped that the Trump administration would follow the precedent of the Obama administration and continue to release visitor logs, but unfortunately they have not," Bookbinder said in April after the lawsuit was filed. "Given the many issues we have already seen in this White House with conflicts of interest, outside influence and potential ethics violations, transparency is more important than ever, so we had no choice but to sue."

The visitors log at Mar-a-Lago is pertinent, as Trump has used the Florida residence to conduct official presidential business. He has spent 25 days at his South Florida estate since taking office and used it to host foreign leaders such as Japanese President Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping. He shared a "beautiful" piece of chocolate cake with the latter as the United States bombed Syria.