White House visitor logs were made an open public record by a someone who was genuinely concerned about improving transparency and “draining the swamp” of D.C. lobbying: President Barack Obama. Those records quickly became a source for both the media and researchers to check on who was going in and out of the the most important building in government. During the Obama administration, those logs recorded over 6 million visits to the White House in the first seven years.
However, under Donald Trump, those logs quickly became a source for nothing but frustration as right out of the gate Trump decided to keep White House visitor logs a secret. That policy became official in April 2017, with the Trump White House making claims that they couldn’t release what Obama had spent eight years releasing “for reasons of national security.” As a result, for the next five years Devin Nunes could wander in after leaping from an Uber, Michael Flynn could visit to propose a military takeover, or Ted Nugent could stop by to join Trump in some locker room talk, but all of it was only as visible as Trump wanted it to be.
Until now. Because just like Donald Trump’s tax records and the stacks of documents left moldering at Mar-a-Lago, White House visitor logs from 2017-2021 are about to become much more visible thanks to President Joe Biden.
As The Washington Post reports, Biden has made a ruling on the White House visitor logs similar to that made on the documents requested by the House select committee on Jan. 6. “The President has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States,” wrote White House counsel Dana Remus.
The records could potentially set off a gold rush when it comes to making connections between Trump, White House staff, lobbyists, members of Congress, and visitors of all sorts. It could reveal corporate executives who dropped in on Trump while Republicans' were crafting their massive tax break. Or fossil fuel lobbyists who stopped by as Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency was dismantling decades of regulations to protect the environment and public health. It could contain a nearly endless list of visitors during the pandemic, giving some clues about Trump’s erratic statements and abrupt reversals.
The records should contain not just who dropped in on Trump, but visitors to every White House office. That would include all those who might have visited Jared Kushner or Ivanka Trump in their White House digs.
But all of that is assuming that the logs are in any kind of condition to be searched. Removed from the public spotlight, it’s unclear how much effort was put into maintaining the logs with any sort of detail or accuracy. Trump may have been known to attempt to flush, or eat, documents that came his way in the White House, but the easiest document to cover up is one that never existed at all.
Some names—those genuinely connected to issues of diplomacy and national security—are erased as a matter of course. But it’s unclear if Trump officials ever logged the names to begin with, or if they used their authority to expunge most of the names.
In spite of Biden’s declaration, the records are not yet available for perusal. It’s still possible that Trump will start another round of court appeals in an effort to delay their release.
But if they do reach the public soon, it will be interesting to see who was going in and out the door. Say … around Jan. 6, 2021.
Republished with permission from Daily Kos.