White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday defended the decision to reverse an Obama-era policy of releasing visitor logs, saying the move will put President Donald Trump’s administration in line with all except the most recent of its predecessors. He also knocked the Obama administration for what he called a “faux attempt” at transparency.
When the Trump administration initially announced last Friday that it would not release a log of visitors to the White House, reversing a practice begun by former President Barack Obama, White House communications director Michael Dubke said the move would protect the nation’s national security interests as well as the privacy of those visiting the Trump administration.
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But on Monday, Spicer characterized the decision as a return to earlier precedent after Obama’s White House promised transparency but failed to deliver. He did not bring up the national security explanation.
“It’s the same policy that every administration had up until the Obama administration,” Spicer said. “And frankly, the faux attempt that the Obama administration put out, where they would scrub who they didn’t want put out, didn’t serve anyone well.”
During the Obama administration, the White House released logs listing nearly 6 million visitors, a practice that did not prompt any apparent national security concerns. And after Trump spent months campaigning on a pledge to “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption and heavily criticizing the capital’s culture of lobbying and the revolving door between government work and the private sector, his administration’s about-face on visitor logs drew heavy criticism from transparency advocates.
Spicer defended the overall White House record on transparency, arguing to reporters that the press pool is given significant access as well as lists of attendees at major meetings. He said the decision not to release visitor logs allows individuals to visit the White House with the same level of privacy as those visiting members of Congress.
“The president wants to make sure that people can come, in the same way they can go into members of Congress’ office, provide information and details,” he said. “We recognize that there’s a privacy aspect to allowing citizens to come express their views.”