Small portion of Mar-a-Lago visitor logs released after FOIA lawsuit

Small portion of Mar-a-Lago visitor logs released after FOIA lawsuit

Small portion of Mar-a-Lago visitor logs released after FOIA lawsuit

Trump owns Mar-a-lago. Charging government officials for their stay at Mar-a-lago means that Trump is using the office of the president to personally enrich himself. And on Friday, the government complied - with a whole 22 names.

Mar-a-Lago came under scrutiny shortly after Trump's inauguration when it was revealed the Palm Beach club had doubled its membership fees from $100,000 in 2016 to $200,000 in 2017.

Needless to say, this didn't satisfy those trying to access the department's full visitor logs.

Instead, the Justice Department insisted "that presidential schedule information is not subject to FOIA", Chad A. Readler, acting assistant attorney general, wrote in a letter to CREW, according to the Times. During the latter's visit, Mar-a-Lago members had a front-row seat as Trump and his Japanese counterpart dealt with a North Korean missile test in the club's members-only dining area. Mar-a-Lago is 99.99 percent owned by the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, according to the president's 2017 financial disclosure statement.

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CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder described the move as "spitting in the eye of transparency". Judge Katherine Polk Failla agreed with CREW's argument that the lists ultimately fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security and are therefore available for request under the Freedom of Information Act.

On July 17, a U.S. District Court judge in NY ruled that the Secret Service would have to turn over the records of Mar-a-Lago visitors to the watchdog groups by September 8. "We will be fighting this in court".

However, after requesting more time to handle the request, the Trump administration on Friday released only a list of 22 visitors from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's Mar-a-Lago meeting with the president, and claimed that all other records were exempt from the FOIA requests.

The 22 names were released after liberal government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington - along with the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University - filed a lawsuit seeking the logs. "And the public has a right to know who lobbies the President, whether it's at the White House or the "Winter White House" or the 18th hole".

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"The government seriously misrepresented their intentions to both us and the court", Bookbinder said.

But a Trump attorney disputed that interpretation earlier this year when addressing questions about the Constitution's foreign emoluments clause.

The payment shows an improper merging of Trump's public office and private business interests, contends Ryan Shapiro, the director of a group called Property of the People, which requested and received the information about the Mar-a-Lago stay.

CREW had previously sued the Obama administration over transparency, prompting the White House to begin publishing visitor logs in 2009. It's not clear from the documents whether the Mar-a-Lago charge was a one-time occurrence, or if taxpayers are regularly paying for administration officials to stay at Trump properties.

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