The Trump administration is refusing to release the names of most of the people who spent time at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort during his frequent and sometimes eventful visits to his private Florida club.
On Friday, Justice Department lawyers said the Secret Service's records about those visitors concern the president's schedule and are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The lawyers said they planned to argue in court to keep the information secret.
Administration officials did release the names of 22 people tied to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the club in February. But the agency's refusal to disclose the names of other visitors drew immediate criticism from the ethics watchdogs who had sued for the release of visitor logs. They pledged to continue the court fights.
"Trump’s secrecy rides again," said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University. The National Security Archive, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Knight First Amendment Institute filed the lawsuit and U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla ordered the government to disclose by Friday any information it agreed was covered by the open-records law.
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the administration's refusal to release more names "was spitting in the eye of transparency."
Blanton said Justice Department lawyers, who successfully sought a week-long extension, gave indications they would release more visitor information. "I can only conclude the Trump White House intervened with the career lawyers," he said.
White House officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Spokesmen for the Justice and Homeland Security departments declined to discuss pending litigation.