Who’s Been Visiting the White House? Secret Logs Under Trump Made Public Again

·4 min read
White House
White House

Robert Alexander/Getty White House         

Joe Biden's administration has released the first set of visitor logs detailing who has been visiting the White House since he took office in January, lifting a veil of secrecy that had been put in place under former President Donald Trump.

In a statement issued Friday, the White House announced that they would post visitor records from Biden's full first year in office. 

While Barack Obama's administration also released visitor logs (which began eight months after he took office), the practice was ended under Trump. 

Biden's reversal of that is his latest in a string of actions meant to distance his White House from that of his predecessor.

"These logs give the public a look into the visitors entering and exiting the White House campus for appointments, tours, and official business — making good on President Biden's commitment to restore integrity, transparency, and trust in government," the White House said in its statement. 

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So far, the administration has released visitor logs from January showing that the White House received 400 visitors during the first 12 days of the new administration.

Of those, only a small handful met with Biden himself and all seemed to be there to coincide with the date of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's swearing-in ceremony, as Politico reported.

Also on the list are American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Becky Pringle, who met with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on Jan. 21. 

Joe Biden
Joe Biden

Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images President Joe Biden         

Bloomberg reports that one of the most frequent visitors to the White House during the 12-day span was Dana Mittelman, a sign-language interpreter. (The administration has been using interpreters at some of its events.)

On Twitter, former Trump White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer criticized the Biden administration for only releasing the logs of in-person visitors, arguing that COVID-19 protocols meant that most official business has been conducted virtually and therefore not subject to public inspection. 

"What a joke of a 'story,' " Spicer wrote, referencing the Bloomberg article about the release of the logs. "Almost all of the White House meetings are virtual because of #covid and they will not release any information on those."

According to the White House's statement, the visitor logs will include "appointment information for individuals who have been processed to enter the White House complex, including the White House, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and New Executive Office Building."

"Naval Observatory records [where Vice President Kamala Harris lives] related to White House business will also be released when they are generated," the White House said.

Visitor records generated prior to when Biden took office will not be released.

There are other restrictions: Also not included in the logs is any information that, the White House said, could threaten national security, meetings that are "purely personal" and "do not involve any official or political business" and "records related to a small group of particularly sensitive meetings (e.g., visits of potential Supreme Court nominees)."

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the Trump Tower in Manhattan on March 9, 2021 in New York City
Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the Trump Tower in Manhattan on March 9, 2021 in New York City

James Devaney/GC Images Donald Trump         

While the Presidential Records Act — passed as a result of Richard Nixon's attempts to hide his infamous tapes — requires a sitting president to eventually make public records such as visitor logs, the Trump administration said in 2017 that it would not, citing national security. 

In February, the Biden administration said it could not release accounts of who visited the White House while Trump was in office, some of which might be of particular interest to the public as it relates to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

"Under the Presidential Records Act, all Trump White House visitor logs are under the control and legal custody of the National Archives and Records Administration, and cannot be unilaterally released by the Biden White House," a White House spokesperson said at the time.

The Trump records, now with the National Archives and Records Administration, are expected to be released in five years.

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