The public will get an inside look at who has been visiting the “winter White House” — President Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach where he has spent at least 25 days since taking office — starting this fall.
The government watchdog agency Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced in a press release Monday that a Southern District of New York judge ruled in its favor in a lawsuit CREW filed against the Department of Homeland Security. DHS is compelled release visitor logs for President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence between the dates of January 20, 2017, and March 8, 2017, by September 8. CREW has promised to release these logs to the public upon receipt.
The lawsuit, filed by CREW, the National Security Archive, and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in April, argued that “to date, the Secret Service has not responded to” FOIA requests regarding visitor logs from Mar-a-Lago, the White House, and Trump Tower. The portion of the lawsuit for the White House visitor log is ongoing and, as of today’s ruling, is set to have its final decision by January 13, CREW communications director Jordan Libowitz said over the phone.
In the meantime, Politico has created an unofficial database of White House visitors, according to its website. It’s not clear exactly why the Mar-a-Lago records were not released earlier. (Vox has reached out to CREW for comment.) As for Trump Tower, DHS claimed that they do not have any records of visitors to Trump’s NYC headquarters, where the infamous Donald Trump Jr. meeting took place during Trump’s presidential campaign.
The Trump administration announced in April it would not follow the precedent set by President Obama, who released White House visitor logs to the public. Though Obama promised the “most transparent administration in history,” his administration initially kept visitor logs private. The Obama administration changed course after a similar CREW lawsuit was filed in 2009 — and notably continued to release visitor logs even after a federal court ruled in 2013 that it didn’t have to. Every prior president, however, kept visitor logs confidential.
That said, Trump differs from Obama and other presidents in the amount of time he spends away from the White House, a fact that prompted the request for the logs from Mar-a-Lago and Trump Tower as well. Trump has spent nearly $10 million traveling to the Palm Beach resort, where he spent 25 of his first 100 days in office and met with world leaders, including Japanese President Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, for official presidential business.
In response to Trump’s frequent return to his private properties, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced the “Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO) Act” in March. It noted at the time, “President Trump has spent 5 of his first 9 weekends in office at Mar-a-Lago,” and that “visitors to Mar-a-Lago do not undergo the same background checks as White House visitors and visitor access records to the club have not been released to the public.”
These days, Trump seems to spend more time his “summer White House,” the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. According to CBS News, CREW plans to file an additional request to view visitor logs at Bedminster as well.
"He had not visited Bedminster yet when we filed in April," Libowitz told CBS. "However, we believe those records would be the same, and they should be turned over."