President Donald Trump's administration has announced that it will not follow predecessor Barack Obama's policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of visitors to the White House complex, citing “grave national security risks and privacy concerns”.
Friday's announcement marks a significant shift from the Obama administration, which released the names of nearly six million visitors since 2009, including scores of lobbyists, The Washington Post reported.
Instead, the Trump administration said it would release information under far more limited circumstances: when Freedom of Information Act requests are filed for those visiting offices of the White House characterised under the law as separate agencies, such as the Office of Management and Budget.
Under the new policy, it will be up to the White House to decide whether to release the names of visitors coming to meet with the President, Vice President and their senior staff.
However, the announcement was harshly criticised by government watchdog groups. David Donnelly of advocacy group Every Voice had this to say:
David Donnelly, President and Chief Executive, Every VoiceThe only excuse for this policy is that the Trump administration has something to hide.
“This kind of secrecy will allow big donors, lobbyists and special interests to have unknown levels of influence in the White House,” The Washington Post quoted Donnelly as saying.
The Trump administration was sued in federal court earlier this week by a coalition of watchdog groups to compel the release of the White House visitor logs.
Under Obama, such records, which were published on a White House-maintained website, were typically disclosed 90 to 120 days after the visit.
Since Trump took office in January, the page where the visitor logs had been publicly available went dark.
Trump administration officials said that they will no longer maintain it, saving taxpayers $70,000 by 2020, the daily added.
Meanwhile, Eric Trumps trip to the UK and Ireland, the international hotel and car rental costs for the Secret Service agents who protect him and his brother Donald Trump Jr. have topped $190,000 since 1 January, a CBS News report said.
All of those bills are paid by taxpayers, according to the report published on Friday.
Documents for Eric Trump's trip this week to Dublin show that $4,029 was spent on limousines for his visit and $11,261 to cover the hotel costs of the Secret Service agents who protect him.
However, these purchase orders do not include airfare costs for Secret Service agents who traditionally conduct advance trips to the location in preparation for visits by those they are to protect. It also does not include the cost of the salaries paid to the agents who protect members of the President's family.
The trips by President Donald Trump's sons are to promote the family-branded properties in those countries, the CBS News report said.
“The Trump family's frequent travel to international destinations purely to promote the family business is burning through taxpayer dollars at an unprecedented rate and stretching the Secret Service increasingly thin,” said Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The Government Accountability Office has begun work on a report that will look at the cost to taxpayers of travel by President Trump's family.
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