Trump Administration Kills Open.Gov, Will Not Release White House Visitor Logs

from the beat-it,-serfs dept

It will never be said that the Trump presidency began with a presumption of openness. His pre-election refusal to release his tax returns set a bit of precedent in that regard. The immediate post-election muffling of government agency social media accounts made the administration’s opacity goals… um… clearer.

So, in an unsurprising move, the Trump administration will be doing the opposite of the Obama administration. The American public will no longer have the privilege of keeping tabs on White House visitors. (h/t Alex Howard)

The Trump Administration will not disclose logs of those who visit the White House complex, breaking with his predecessor, the White House announced Friday.

The administration is justifying this reversal with the usual: favorable interpretations of FOIA lawsuit rulings and “national security” mumbling.

White House communications director Michael Dubke said the decision to reverse the Obama-era policy was due to “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.” Instead, the Trump Administration is relying on a federal court ruling that most of the logs are “presidential records” and are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Yes, it’s sadly true. The administration can use this ruling to lock the public out of this small layer of transparency. The rest of it, however, is bullshit.

Whatever “national security risks” may exist during White House visits should be addressed by intelligence agencies and the Secret Service rather than being withheld from the public. The White House hosts top foreign government officials all the time and it is always a “national security risk.” Disclosing who’s visited the White House AFTER THEY’VE ALREADY LEFT does zero damage to national security.

Additionally, there are likely several visitors to the White House every year that aren’t logged for security reasons, and if it’s really that much of a concern, the administration could release the logs with redactions, like Obama did.

As for visitors who aren’t government officials (domestic or foreign), it’s pretty imaginative to assume visits to the most well-known home of public servants in the free world carry with it some form of unbreachable privacy.

On top of everything else, it’s extremely hypocritical for the administration to pretend this is about privacy and security when the president has been hosting government official get-togethers at resorts — a place where logs aren’t kept and “national security risks” seem to be less of a concern than how many holes Trump can fit in between government business.

So, to further distance himself from the people he serves (and the people who elected him), Trump and his administration have shut down the transparency portal put in place by the previous Commander-in-Chief:

White House officials said the Administration is ending the contract for Open.gov, the Obama-era site that hosted the visitor records along with staff financial disclosures, salaries, and appointments.

The administration can’t even perform this move without meaningless, self-justifying dissembling. It’s not about keeping secrets, of course. It’s about saving taxpayers money [eyeroll]:

An official said it would save $70,000 through 2020 and that the removed disclosures, salaries and appointments would be integrated into WhiteHouse.gov in the coming months.

Thanks, Trump. I love the phrase “coming months,” which means anytime between 2018 and never. The smart money’s on not seeing any financial disclosures until nearly a year from now, at the earliest. The only way we’ll see anything sooner is if some White House cabinet scandal manages to dislodge it first. Plus, there’s this, from Trump himself, who obviously has no idea his past tweets are accessible by everyone:

If you can’t see the tweet, it’s Trump calling out Obama for doing the same thing Trump is now doing: rolling back a predecessor’s openness.

Why does Obama believe he shouldn’t comply with record releases that his predecessors did of their own volition? Hiding something?

President Obama was better talking about transparency than engaging in it. President Trump, on the other hand, has expressed zero interest in transparency and appears to be rolling back anything “open” Obama grudgingly put into place. Maybe it’s better to have White House animosity towards openness and accountability right there on the surface. But right now, it really doesn’t feel like an improvement.

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Comments on “Trump Administration Kills Open.Gov, Will Not Release White House Visitor Logs”

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75 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

We already know that Trump is a turd, and why this is news is questionable.

Every administration hides shit. It’s one of the reasons you are a fool if you think this is a democracy. It is simply not true, never was, and likely never will be. Sure we have some democratic similarities, but we are a republic. We elect people we think will best serve our interests… or at least that is the idea.

Obama was just smart enough to play along with the idea of “openness” Trump just does not give a flat fuck at all.

Maybe if you placed a pussy hat on top of openness, Trump might grab it!

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

We already know that Trump is a turd, and why this is news is questionable.

No offense, but to me the worst commenter we get is the one who pulls out the bullshit "why is this news?" savvy cynic line. It’s news because it fucking matters. It doesn’t matter if "all politicians are bad." It’s news when someone does something bad that we can report on. I know, I know, you’re so brilliant and above all this shit that you think it looks cool to pretend that everyone’s equally bad and "it’s not news" when one does something bad.

Except you’re wrong. It is news. And you don’t look cool and savvy. You look like a naive cynical jackass. It was news when Obama did bad stuff and it’s news when Trump does bad stuff, and we’re going to report on it either way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

ha ha ha… did you feel butt hurt?

It’s not news because it is nothing new. It WILL be news when someone comes along and bucks the trend, that is news!

Sure we can have a difference of opinion on what is and is not news, but since I already KNOW THIS, it cannot be news! I think everyone else already knows it too! Sure there is a case to be make on being redundant, but there a probably better issues to report than secretive presidents doing secretive things. it is literally part of the territory!

Naive? Over already knowing this an telling you I don’t think this is news because everyone likely knows this? Okay Hoss… if your radar is that screwed up, then why should I listen to any other news stories you got huh? They are likely out of focus as well.

Cynical Jackass? Man, I gotta tell ya, you might be spot on with that one. Watching you fruit loop suck your party dicks with sycophancy does that to folks. I hate all the pro trump, pro obama, pro bush, & pro hillary crowds.

If you were willing to or did vote for a single one of those, you have run out of political currency and deserve no respect!

So excuse me and my cynical ass self for watching you fucking turds work your hardest to ensure that George Washington’s farewell address concerns come to life. Hell, it has already been done, we are just lowering the fucking pendulum & guillotine a little bit more here!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“It’s not news because it is nothing new”

I guess I am confused. What is news then? I thought this was news. Trump rolling back transparency is fairly important news in my opinion no matter what it is in. Trump even justifies it by claiming it will save $70,000 while at the same times spends millions going to Florida every weekend.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I fully accept that my opinion of news is different than yours.

You think Trump is rolling back transparency, well he is not, it just looks that way because people, ignorantly, thought there was any transparency to begin with. There is a word for giving people what they want, without actually giving them what they want. It is called Deception!

Anyone that believes this to be “new information” should realize that they just revealed that they are ignorant about this problem. There a multiple ways to hide the truth and this story is more akin to bitching about the process of being bad than the problem of being bad.

Since stories like this have yet to change a single mind and should already be well known, I question its value as news on those merits.

Now being that there are loads of lost and ignorant sheep in the electorate (we did vote in Bush, Obama, and now Trump after all), maybe it really is news, I am just too well informed to see it that way possibly. I have been debating this shit since Clintoon was president!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

” .. just making a point and you didn’t like it.”

I missed it, what was your point again?

Hmmm, best I can tell is:
Let’s see, if this dude knows something happened then no one should tell anyone else because it is not news to him – brilliant! Must be one of those “Breaking News” copyright thingies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Why are you even here if it’s not news? I think we all know the real reason. A desperate need for attention and validation, coupled with a need to belittle others to cover up your feelings of inadequacy. It certainly isn’t your witty repartee. Because the “I too cool for you all sheelpe” has been done to death by better people than you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I have to first read the article to make that determination.

Or are you recommending that I just be like many others and make my assumptions based on the title alone? Something tells me that you would be bitching about that, had I taken your logical fallacy towards its usual and unfortunate end.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“I have to first read the article to make that determination.”

Yes, you have to read it first (before anyone else) in order to determine whether others should be allowed to see it because you are the self appointed censor for all our data input. Thank you for your continuing effort in this field as there are many cases where the public should not be made aware of their pending doom … errr I mean their future Great America.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I like Techdirt, so I usually read their articles, and offer my comments. You are welcome to work to make TD an echo chamber, I know you guys see the appeal of that, but that will only make TD become stale and pointless.

Very few things in this world can spur others into vibrancy like political discourse! It has started no wars, but it sure gets blamed a lot for them! The ONLY thing(s) that starts wars is Money/Power. Two items so intertwined you can’t separate them!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“The ONLY thing(s) that starts wars is Money/Power.”

Really – stupidity never enters the equation, lol.

Yes, it is an echo chamber when things you disagree with are discussed and it is a great site when things you do agree with are discussed as this is the definition of echo chamber … amirite?

William Braunfeld says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Hello! I have a question for you.

It appears that you are making one of two possible points here; either it is not news if EVERYONE already knows it, or it is not news if YOU already know it. Can you please clarify which you mean?
If you meant the first point, I believe most of the comments here already disprove your point. In fact, not only did I not know that Trump was shutting down Open.gov, I actually come to Techdirt for exacly that sort of information, meaning it is certainly news at least to me. You may be sure that “everyone” knows it, but I am pretty sure there are others like me; sureity isn’t much of a standard anyhow.
If your point is the latter, well… there isn’t much to argue against. Don’t expect any agreement outside your own head, though.

AC says:

So, if/when this information shows up on WhiteHouse.gov, a retraction of this article will be made? Just checking, ya know – otherwise the bias would be just too obvious.

Obama kept secrets about Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal/Lois Lerner, Bengazi, the Clinton email scandal and probably a dozen other things which are WAY more important than the visitor’s log at the WH. Noted here is the lack of previous outrage on the part of TD.

Hypocrites.

Baron von Robber says:

Re: Re:

Yea, never mind about Russian connections, filling gov jobs with lobbyists, nepotism, no tax disclosures (which would clear the Russian issue), removal of privacy rule with ISPs, going golfing the 16th time at taxpayer’s expense (in less than one year compared to Obama’s 8 years) saying he would work harder than Obama, making us pay for the wall (not Mexico), not repealing Obamacare, not killing off ISIS like he said he would, saying we should not attack Syria (then attacks Syria), locking up Hillary (and not locking her up), victim of a wire tapp (sic) (without evidence of it), yea, no hypocrites here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Bengazi

You fuckers investigated it 7 times…are you that incompetent to fuck up an investigation not once, not twice, but 7 times?

Finally glad to hear one of you dipshits admit it.

the Clinton email scandal

I’m still waiting for Trump to lock her up like he promised. Along with securing a check from Mexico for your stupid fucking wall.

So, if/when this information shows up on WhiteHouse.gov, a retraction of this article will be made?

I’d trust TD to print a retraction more than Trump actually keeping a promise.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What are you talking about? Techdirt has several stories on those points you brought up. Did you even try using the Techdirt search function. Took me .31 seconds to see you were just blow hot air. There have been hundreds of stories about the last administration and secrecy. I don’t always agree with Techdirt but haven’t ever seen them as hypocrites. Please point out with links if I am wrong. I have only read their articles for the past few years so there may be something I missed. I do think both Trump and Obama have been hypocrites at one time or another. Obama at least had some style while Trump just seems to blunder into things and change his mind on a whim.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

no no no, you misunderstand… that is only how long it took TD to produce results. I was asking you to prove something you could not prove as in… proving that in just .31 seconds you completed the search AND read all the titles of the article to understand that they were 1. TD Articles and 2. Spoke to the subject at hand. Had you stated that it only took you seconds…

Anyway, I was just yanking your chain, I though you new that… I guess people really do need to add the /s at the end.

So I was really intending to infer that you are correct, a little bit of searching would have benefited the person you were responding too.

That said, he did mention lack of outrage, which on a technical level has nothing to do with TD having published any articles on it. It could be that their perception is that they felt no outrage from the articles and TD and the communities stance on the subject matter. I an understand this to a small degree as I have a similar view point. TD may have an article but I feel a different level of outrage or concern in some of them compared to others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Like everyone else, very biased!

Take this story for example. I am more outraged at the fact that idiot citizens are not in a march demanding that the government stop hiding shit, creating secret courts, holding secret interpretations of laws. Keeping diplomatic communications secret (for long), and just generally keeping multiple new bills secret until the last minute!

I am not outraged or consider it news in the least to be told that Trump is just like Obama… keeps secrets from us! It’s going to happen and manor in which it happens is of very little consequence compared to the fact of it happening!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Why can’t we all just tell the truth?
Lies come in many forms.

Claiming that both parties do it and therefore both parties are the same is a simple argument intended to sway simple people, it ignores the extent to which the public is being lied to.

For example, some politicians use lies of omission because of sensitive info or other such restrains while other politicians blatantly lie to your face. But these two are supposed to be equal?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You comment only made me put proof behind my comment. It wouldn’t matter if there was a /s or not. I would have still posted it. Only takes about a minute to post it and it also backed up my original point to the other poster. But I thought you knew that.

I did respond to the lack of outrage in my first message but here is a bit more of my view of that. Obama was a lot more skilled at moving the spotlight. Also, his continued abuses to transparency happened for so long that it was becoming apathetic to everyone. Trump is new and is taking the bull in the china shop approach. He likes the spotlight to be him at all times. I believe he he sets things up to be chaotic and the comes up this “great” solution. So yes there is definitely more outrage but I bet in 6-7 years, everyone will be apathetic instead of outraged. I sure hope it is only 1 term though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I do see where you pointed out the hypocrisy part. But for me that did not address the outrage. But if that was your intent, then I can accept that, I just mistook your aim.

I do agree with you that Obama was far more skilled at moving the spotlight. Trump has always been a caricature, I think that is oddly what attracts so many people. I am beginning to think, its an accidentally genius move, because people think that if he lies this terribly then we can trust him more than people that lie far better.

I do not subscribe to that logic, but apparently many folks do.

An on the Apathy, I think you hit the nail on the head there. Most people don’t seem to care, I mean, they talk like they do, but they still get out and vote that party ticket. I am more of an original liberal, I hate the left and the right, I think liberal has become the new conservative, and conservative has become the new right and the old right moved to alt-right.

I espouse liberty before everything else. The Constitution is critical and important. Governments #1 job is to ensure my liberty just as stated in the Declaration of Independence. The idea that Government should be in the business of protecting my life is an anathema to liberty! Because protecting life is the “Armed” vehicle in which they ride to rob our liberties!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Yes - hiding many things

This may be the most intelligent thing you might have EVER said. And that is a compliment!

That said, it is in the public interest to know if Trump is financially compromised. His financial information or the financial information of ANY public official for that matter should be “by law”, public data!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is Different...

Some things like visitor logs made conspiracies run rampant and didn’t reveal anything relevant about what the meeting was about. Thus it didn’t actually inform a relevant political discussion as much as inform rumours, fake news and certainly some of the oppositional conspiracies (certain republican radio hosts etc. excel at that). The economic side is a lot more sinister, but we will see when the storm ends and the hurricane begins.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This is Different...

It is my opinion that these conspiracies are played to great effect.

Take the whole Obama is not native born issue. I think it was a genius move to play that the way he did. Obama was born to an American citizen which qualifies him as being a citizen in my book. He sure kept a lot of the loonies on the run with it, and that speaks to some form of genius or just pure luck and the appearance of it. I just didn’t like Obama period and the way people latched onto that story was more of a distraction than anything worthwhile.

So I am certain these all play into conspiracies that play well with certain political narratives, but that is a huge problem. Like you said, it still keep citizens ignorant and foments rumors that can easily be played into partizan politics for each parties base.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is Different...

The distractions and red herrings are too prominent in politics today. It is not because these things are credible or interesting, but the media can cook soup on it for years.

It is much more interesting if the media digged more into internationalism and how deals between nations work. That would be extremely informative in domestic debates, since it reveals more about what is behind the deals.

Anonymous Coward says:

To be fair (and rational about it), POTUS is not required to release his tax returns ever, either before the election nor after it. It’s well within his (or her) right to refuse to do so. This is largely a political stunt rather than any real kind of “transparency” as the IRS can audit the President and anyone else they want to at any time.

If I were President, I wouldn’t release my tax returns either, because it’s no one’s business other than mine and the IRS. This is not a matter of supporting the man or the office, but rather a slap in the face of people advancing conspiracies over a lack of release. If you’re for privacy, but demand someone (anyone) turn over their personal financial records to the public for some vague hand waving notion of “transparency” then you’re a damned hypocrite. It shouldn’t matter if the man was your worst enemy, your representative in government, or your own finances, privacy for one and not someone else is bullshit.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If I were President, I wouldn’t release my tax returns either, because it’s no one’s business other than mine and the IRS.

Incorrect. We’re talking about someone with business holdings and debts not just in Russia and America but around the world. Americans have every right to know who he’s beholden to and who can put pressure on him by threatening his businesses.

That’s also why previous Presidents have divested themselves of business holdings or put them in a blind trust. Something else that Trump has refused to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

but rather a slap in the face of people advancing conspiracies over a lack of release

But some conspiracies are good, right?

Pizzagate?

Obama’s birth certificate?

Climate change being a Chinese hoax?

Mexico will pay for the wall?

Why the fucking fuck doesn’t he slap those ridiculous fucking theories first?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: When your choices can affect millions, it's more than just 'your business'

Sure, absolutely, they can refuse to do so. The public is also well within their rights to call them out on it and point out that refusing to do so opens up questions.

As for the hypocrisy angle, no, not really.

It’s not so much a ‘privacy’ issues as it is a ‘Does the president have financial ties to certain groups/industries/individuals that might influence their actions while in office?’ As a hypothetical example, if a town elects a mayor, it would be nice to know beforehand that said mayor has a financial stake in a local business, as it’s likely to impact any actions they take that might benefit or be detrimental to that business, and therefore themself.

Move from mayor to president and that issue becomes a lot more important, especially when talking about the current president, given Trump still maintains ties to his businesses.

Your average person isn’t likely to have a huge impact on those around them, so their tax returns aren’t really important. Someone in the gorram White House on the other hand can easily impact millions with their decisions, so who and what they have ties with most certainly does matter.

AC says:

Transparency and Obama

Lol. You Obama fanbois are very amusing. How many of you know how he *actually* got elected to be a senator? How he ran “unopposed” for the seat after the previous senator resigned? Anyone remember why the previous senator resigned? Anyone remember how many people who also wanted to run for that seat who were eliminated from that ballot because their eligibility was removed beforehand? (5) How long was he a Senator before he started running for President?

Obama started out opaque, and kept being that way his entire presidency while shouting to the heavens that he was transparent. Now you guys are all butthurt because Trump is being upfront about being less than transparent?

Hilarious!

Anonymous Coward says:

“So, in an unsurprising move, the Trump administration will be doing the opposite of the Obama administration”

There the phucktard goes again… trying to imply that “somehow” the Obama administration was “open” and “honest”, when he knows good and goddamn well thats a lie of the highest caliber.

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