After a months-long court battle to obtain the visitor logs from President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and an additional week-long delay, the Justice Department on Friday released the names of just 22 visitors to the estate.
“The government does not believe that they need to release any further Mar-a-Lago visitor records,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “We vehemently disagree. The government seriously misrepresented their intentions to both us and the court.”
CREW teamed up with the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute in April to sue the Department of Homeland Security for Mar-a-Lago’s complete visitor logs from Jan. 20, the date of Trump’s inauguration, to March 8. Instead, DOJ turned over just 22 names of visitors from the weekend the President hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his entourage at the sprawling Palm beach estate.
Those on the list include Japan’s deputy foreign minister and other top aides, butlers, and drivers from Abe’s delegation.
Bookbinder said that this list amounted to “spitting in the eye of transparency,” promising that the trio of watchdog groups “will be fighting this in court.”
CREW also released a letter from the DOJ, dated Tuesday, that explained the other records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the watchdogs.
“The remaining records that the Secret Service has processed in response to the Mar-a-Lago request contain, reflect, or otherwise relate to the President’s schedules,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler and Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York wrote. “The government believes that Presidential schedule information is not subject to FOIA.”
Trump was traveling to Mar-a-Lago frequently during the period included in the watchdog groups’ complaints, and came under fire for conducting government business in view of paying members of his Florida club.
During Abe’s visit, for example, club members shared images on social media of Trump and the Prime Minister strategizing their response to a ballistic missile release by North Korea at a dinner table.
The White House also dismissed ethics concerns about the cost of bringing a visiting dignitary to the President’s private resort, telling the press that Trump was “personally paying for the Mar-a-Lago portions of the trip” as a “gift.”
The trio of watchdog groups is also suing to obtain visitor logs from the White House and Trump Tower, the President’s Manhattan home.
Read the DOJ letter and list of 22 visitors’ names below:
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