World

White House decides to keep visitor records secret

The White House said on Friday that lists of visitors to the building will be kept secret, breaking with the practice of President Donald Trump's predecessor.

The Trump administration cited privacy and national security concerns, but the decision angered government watchdog groups who accused Trump of reneging on his promise to "drain the swamp" in Washington. The groups see the visitor logs as important tools for monitoring which individuals or groups may be trying to influence White House policy. Trump has been widely criticized for a lack of openness in refusing to release his tax returns, breaking with decades of precedent.

White House communications director Michael Dubke said Trump has taken steps to improve the ethical climate in Washington, such as imposing new restrictions on lobbying by departing administration officials and opening the White House press briefing room to outlets that previously didn't have access.

He said the decision was based on the "grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually."

But Judicial Watch, a conservative legal advocacy group which has sued administrations of both parties over the visitor records and other matters, argued that Trump should allow the Secret Service to release the logs under the Freedom of Information Act, which would allow sensitive details to remain private. The White House says the records are exempt from the law.

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