Public left on the street after White House visitor logs go dark

Last week, the Secret Service banished pedestrians from the south side of the White House after too many unauthorized visitors managed to leap over the fence. The gates of the White House are still open wide for invited guests. But the rest of us can’t know who they are anymore. For nearly eight years, the White House visitor logs were open to the public, and President Barack Obama described the lists of who visited whom as a keystone of his legacy on open government. Earlier in April, the Trump administration announced that making those lists public violated privacy and threatened national security — even though Obama’s lists already scrubbed the names of secret agents and such. “The comings and goings of lobbyists and billionaires looking for tax breaks is not classified information,” said Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor and former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. “That’s a complete farce.” Painter is vice chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which has joined other open government advocacy groups in suing Trump for access to visitor logs. On Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended the decision and called the lists “faux” transparency. Indeed, some names were dropped from the lists under Obama. Prince and Stevie Wonder gave a private concert in 2015 with no public record of their visits. But here’s a sampling of what the public learned from the visitor logs, based on reporting from a variety of outlets that’s been collected by Alex Howard of the Sunlight Foundation: A Democratic political consultant who resigned after he was linked to paid agitators disrupting Trump campaign rallies had visited the White House 340 times. (Breitbart News, 2016) Two-thirds of Obama’s top fundraisers in 2008 visited the White House at least once in the next four years. (New York Times, 2012) Lobbyist and former Obama campaign Continue Reading

White House visitors find photos of Trump’s hands unappetizing

The White House cafeteria has chicken fingers — but they’re not on the menu. Recent White House guests were baffled by rather large and unappetizing photos of the President posted along the hallway leading to the “White House mess” that seem to emphasize the President’s famously little hands. “If you’re a VIP and you’re visiting the White House, sometimes you’re taken by aides to the White House mess,” explains one of those VIPs. “It’s not the formal dining room or the family dining room. It’s where you might go if you’re lunching with a cabinet member or general.” We’re told that en route to that room, guests first pass through a hall of stately portraits of past Presidents. But in the final stretch leading to the mess, there’s a series of portraits that seem to focus on President Trump’s hands, including one that our spy says is “by no means a tiny photo,” spotlighting The Donald’s wee mitts, about which he’s very sensitive. In that photo, Trump’s left-hand fingertips are pressed against his right-hand fingertips, both resting atop a shiny executive desk, which reflects that image. “Maybe they wanted to make his point by blowing up the photo, but it does the complete opposite,” we’re told. “It’s wildly unappetizing.” Another photo in this particular gallery shows the President pointing at someone, while another shows his minidigits wrapped around a telephone receiver. “One guest joked, ‘I wonder if they’re big enough to hold a knife and fork,’ ” snickered our source. Trump’s seemingly little hands first became a talking point in 1988 when Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter wrote in Spy magazine that Trump was “a short-fingered vulgarian.” The issue was brought up again in last year’s Continue Reading

Obama’s dog Sunny bites White House visitor in the face

President Obama attended to a minor White House emergency earlier this week after a visitor was bitten in the face by the First Family's 4-year-old dog. The unnamed 18-year-old family friend was visiting the White House on Monday when she went to pet and kiss Sunny, the President's fluffy female Portuguese water dog, sources told TMZ. But the presidential pooch didn't take kindly to smooches and chomped down on the teen's face, leaving a half-inch gash under her left eye, according to the gossip site. Dr. Ronny Jackson, the Obama family's physician, checked out the dog bite and determined the guest needed stitches. Jackson said the bite would leave a small scar, which apparently upset the teen, who posted photos with angry captions after the incident, according to multiple reports. "I f-----g hate sunny," she captioned a Snapchat selfie of herself and Malia Obama. Portuguese water dogs are typically not very temperamental and are "excellent with children," according to The breed does however have a tendency of getting overexcited and jumpy when a visitor is at the door, the website notes. Sunny's 8-year-old canine sibling Bo, christened as the "First Dog," does not have any bite attacks on his record.   During Friday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, "Bo and Sunny have been genuine ambassadors to the American people. "They’ve represented themselves and their country quite well,” Earnest said. Continue Reading

Trump administration to keep White House visitor logs secret

WASHINGTON — Hide the swamp. The Trump administration has decided not to let the public know who's visiting the White House by refusing to release its visitor logs, officials announced Friday. That's a major change from the last administration. President Obama's team voluntarily disclosed the comings and goings of most visitors to the White House grounds, and the Obama administration released more than 6 million records during his presidency, posting them online for the public's perusal. Trump officials explained the change as a national security issue, though the Obama administration never had that concern. "Given the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, the White House Office will disclose Secret Service logs as outlined under the Freedom of Information Act," White House Communications Director Mike Dubke said in a statement, pointing out that a federal court ruled in 2013 that the visitor logs weren't covered under public records release requirements. As Trump officials point out, Obama played a bit fast and loose with his own disclosures — logs were often incomplete, as the White House Counsel's office had full authority to redact people's names for any reasons. But at least they released some information. The change in policy, coming after three months of internal debate and frustration from reporters trying to find out about what meetings were happening at the White House, raises questions about why the Trump administration isn't as interested in being as transparent as its predecessors — especially in light of Trump's promise to "drain the swamp" of Washington and end conflicts of interest and a lobbyist-heavy culture. And it runs counter to Trump’s own criticism of Obama for not releasing more information as president. “Why does Obama believe he shouldn't comply with record releases that his predecessors did of Continue Reading

SEE IT: President Trump greets White House visitors as portrait of Hillary Clinton looms over him

President Trump surprised young visitors during a White House tour early Tuesday — and Hillary Clinton was there too. Sort of. Trump emerged from a barrier to greet visitors in the East Wing as a portrait of former First Lady Clinton loomed over him and his guests. The President bested Clinton in a bitter election fight last year. Trump greeted the guests enthusiastically, and even called one lucky child over to meet him. Jack Cornish, 10, from Birmingham, Ala., received a hug from Trump. It was the first day of tours at the White House since the inauguration. First Lady Melania Trump announced last month that they would return. "I am excited to reopen the White House to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come each year," she said in a statement on Feb. 14. "The White House is a remarkable and historic site and we are excited to share its beauty and history. I am committed to the restoration and preservation of our Nation's most recognizable landmark." With News Wire Services Continue Reading

WATCH: Trump Surprises White House Visitors as Tours Resume

New video aired moments ago on "America's Newsroom" shows President Donald Trump surprising a group of tourists at the White House."Work hard, everybody. Work hard," he told the stunned school-children. Trump called for some of the kids to come over to greet him and 10-year-old Jack Cornish, of Birmingham, Alabama, ran over to pose with the commander-in-chief.Cornish is a fifth-grader at Briarwood Christian School.First Lady Melania Trump announced a few weeks ago that the tours would be resuming today. "I am excited to reopen the White House to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come each year.  The White House is a remarkable and historic site and we are excited to share its beauty and history.  I am committed to the restoration and preservation of our Nation's most recognizable landmark," she said in a White House statement.The president greeted about 40-50 tour-goers, who could be heard screaming with excitement, on a lower floor of the White House. Coincidentally, a portrait of the former First Lady, Hillary Clinton, loomed right above Trump as he stopped to wave to the crowd. Watch the scene above. Tucker Battles Dem Congressman Over Trump's Wiretapping Accusations 'I Sleep Pretty Good at Night': Casey Anthony Speaks Out on Daughter's Murder Levin: Obama Knew About Alleged Trump Wiretaps 'Unless He's Helen Keller' Hannity on Trump's Wiretapping Claims: What Did Obama Know and When?   Continue Reading

Court rules White House visitor logs can be kept secret

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled Friday that White House visitor logs can be kept secret.The ruling from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed a district court decision from 2011 that all White House visitor records are subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disclosure requirements.The Obama administration began releasing visitor logs in September 2009 after media and public interest groups had for years sought to learn who had access to the Oval Office and other West Wing haunts. Records from before that time had not been released, and the court's ruling means presidents can revert to that policy.The case was brought by the watchdog group Judicial Watch. In ruling against it, the court did grant public access to some visitor logs, but not those affecting the Oval Office."In both the 1974 FOIA Amendments and the 1978 Presidential Records Act, Congress made clear that it did not want documents like the appointment calendars of the president and his close advisors to be subject to disclosure under FOIA," Chief Judge Merrick Garland wrote for the three-judge panel. "Granting Judicial Watch's request for certain visitor records, however, would effectively disclose the contents of those calendars."Follow @richardjwolf on Twitter. Continue Reading

Trump administration blocks access to White House visitor logs

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Friday that records of visitors to the White House will stay secret until at least five years after Trump leaves office, a reversal of policy quickly denounced by advocates of transparent government."Given the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, the White House Office will disclose Secret Service logs as outlined under the Freedom of Information Act, a position the Obama White House successfully defended in federal court," Trump communications director Mike Dubke said in a statement.That federal court ruling said White House visitor logs are "presidential records" not subject to the Freedom of Information Act — though the Obama administration voluntarily released more than 6 million records of visitor during its eight years in office, a policy that Trump is reversing.The Trump team's decision came days after three groups filed suit against the administration demanding release of visitor records to the White House, Trump Tower in New York, and the president's Mar-A-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.The organizations — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University — allege in the suit that the failure to release the records violates the Freedom of Information Act.Previous efforts by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) led to the Obama administration’s decision in 2009 to voluntarily release the visitor logs.“It’s disappointing that the man who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ just took a massive step away from transparency by refusing the release the White House visitor logs that the American people have grown accustomed to accessing over the last six years and that provide indispensable information about who is seeking to influence the president,” CREW Executive Continue Reading

White House to release visitor’s list, says President Obama

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration will begin releasing the names of all its visitors later this year, relaxing a longstanding policy of conducting government business in secrecy."For the first time in history, records of White House visitors will be made available to the public on an ongoing basis," President Obama said in a statement. Records of visitors from the previous 90-120 days will be made available online every month, the White House said. In matters of national security and special cases of privacy the names of guests will be excluded. The decision to open up the White House log book was made after the left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington pressed the case for full transparency. The group originally tried to get the Bush White House to hand over the logs but was rebuffed on grounds that such disclosures violated executive privilege. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading


WASHINGTON - A federal judge has ordered the Secret Service to release all records of disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff's visits to the White House - which could prove an embarrassment for President Bush. The logs are expected to show who Abramoff met with at the White House as well as when and how long he was there. Bush has said he did not know the uber-schmoozer, who pleaded guilty in a massive influence-peddling scandal. But photos show the two posing for pictures at the White House. Abramoff also raised more than $100,000 for Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. In a three-paragraph ruling, U.S. District Judge John Penn ordered the Secret Service to release the logs by May 10. "The American people deserve the truth concerning admitted felon Jack Abramoff's visits and meetings with Bush administration officials in the White House," Tom Fitton, president of conservative-leaning watchdog group Judicial Watch, said yesterday. Judicial Watch filed suit to get the logs released after Freedom of Information Act requests by it and the liberal-leaning legal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington were denied. "We don't know what these records will show, but it's time we get more of the facts on the table," added Fitton, whose group made a name for itself during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton over his trysts with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Pleading guilty to conspiracy and bilking clients out of millions of dollars, Abramoff agreed to testify for the feds in their influence-peddling probe, which has reached as high as the offices of ex-GOP House leader Tom DeLay of Texas and Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio). Several people have been charged in the case, and more indictments are expected. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading