The Secret Service Just Made It Impossible For Trump To Be Sneaky In The W.H.


Throughout the course of his campaign, Trump campaigned almost as hard against President Obama as he did Hillary Clinton. Despite President Obama leaving office with no scandals and fairly strong approval ratings, Trump tried to paint him as untrustworthy. The former real-estate developer campaigned that he would be more honest and open than President Obama or Clinton. It was a good sales pitch, but, unfortunately, bears little semblance to reality. Take, for example, the issue of the White House visitor logs. Since taking office, the Trump administration has removed those records from public databases making it harder for people to know who has the president’s ear. Some organizations, such as Public Citizen, have started fighting back.

The watchdog group recently filed suit in order to prevent the Secret Service from erasing such data. The courts have not yet issued a decision, but Public Citizen has already won a temporary victory. POLITICO reports that Justice Department lawyer Julie Straus Harris has said that the Secret Service has agreed to halt its practice of removing data until the case is resolved.

‘Although not necessary to preserve the requested records, the Secret Service has stated that it will retain copies of all [appointment and visitor entry] data during the pendency of this litigation, and Secret Service has suspended auto-delete functions.’

To be clear, even under the previous policy the data wasn’t being deleted. It was merely transferred to White House offices. However, such a tactic can make the data much harder to access. While they are held by the Secret Service, visitor logs are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. This means they can be retrieved within a relatively short period of time. This makes it easier for journalists, private citizens, and watch dog groups to access this information.

However, if it is only held by White House offices then the data falls under the Presidental Records Act which offers much greater protection and privacy. This particular law allows the president to keep such files private until at least five years after he leaves office. In some cases, that data can be kept secret for as long as 12 years. Either way, such a delay makes it much more difficult for organizations to monitor the president.

Public Citizen’s suit has requested District Court Judge Christopher Cooper to issue a temporary restraining order forbidding the Secret Service from handing records over to the White House Office of Records Management. The Justice Department’s new filing contends that such an order is unnecessary as the Secret Service has agreed to cease deleting copies of its records and the White House has said it will turn previous visitor records over to the Secret Service if the courts rule in favor of Public Citizen.

The hearing was originally set for Wednesday, but Cooper had to cancel it due to a scheduling conflict.

This case is only one of several challenging the Trump administration’s secretive handling of visitor logs. One suit, filed in Manhattan, has demanded that the Secret Service hand over visitor logs from the White House, Mar-a-Lago, and Trump Tower.

Featured image via Getty Images.