Robert Morton

Nov 28, 2021

4 min read

Former President Trump banned public access to the White House Visitor’s Log

I am glad that President Biden reopened the White House visitor’s log after former President Trump barred it from public view. Now, the public can view those individuals who have been processed to enter the White House complex, including the White House, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and New Executive Office Building. Of course, the White House cannot release access records that would threaten national security interests, but you may view all who visit the White House on the now reopened White House Visitor’s Log.

It is nice to know that true democracy and openness is once again reinstated inside the White House. I clicked on the White House Visitor’s Log and read through the list of people and companies entering and exiting the White House campus for appointments, tours, and official business. Interesting list …check it out!

Our fragile democracy depends upon a presidential commitment to integrity, transparency, and trust in government. When former President Trump directly blocked the media and public access to all officials he met at the White House, he broke away from the Obama administration’s practice of openness. Oddly, then President Trump and my fictional POTUS Rhinehart in the PENUMBRA DATABASE spy thriller both placed a cloak of secrecy over the basic day-to-day happenings within the Oval Office.

In the Penumbra Database novel, it was done after frequent terrorist attacks against soft targets within America’s heartland. President Rhinehart met often with General Morrison of the secretive Caribbean Basin Interdiction Force. CBIF’s mission was to stop the flow of sleeper cell terrorists from sneaking into the U.S. from America’s vulnerable southern flank, the Caribbean Basin. It was a counterintelligence move; he wanted to shield his activities from the scrutiny of activists, lobbyists, both political adversaries and supporters, and from his aides as well. National security took priority over openness.

When the former President Trump announced that he would block public access to the White House Visitor’s Log, I thought of a few scenes in the PENUMBRA DATABASE spy thriller. In the novel, the fictional President Rhinehart used various subterfuges to hide and not reveal the real visitors to the Oval Office. Here is a snippet from PENUMBRA DATABASE:

President Rhinehart looked back at Morrison, who was seated on a matching couch across from him in the Oval Office. “As you know, our meetings never happen, especially this one.”

“I understand fully, sir.” Morrison knew the modus operandi well. All his meetings with Rhinehart go unreported. A fictitious name appears on the White House Visitor’s Log and the press release simply says that the president had coffee and a chat with an outside consultant over “domestic and foreign policy issues.” The records lack identifying details beyond the fabricated name, and typos often occur by design.

On several occasions, Morrison used a name of someone who was cleared to enter the White House but never actually showed up. Since the surge in terrorist soft target hits on America intensified, the Supreme Court ruled that the White House can keep secret the records of visitors who enter the building. They are not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“The intelligence that Corey Pearson gathered is very disturbing, indeed. I have sent the USS Caribbean Sea amphibious assault ship on a training exercise off the eastern coast of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas.”

End of snippet

Unlike in this fictional snippet account, terrorist sleeper cells have not attacked inside the U.S. for a while. So, I wonder if it was appropriate for former President Trump to block public access to his visitors log? Will someone, someday, challenge his move under the FOIA? The former Trump White House communications director Michael Dubke said the decision to reverse the Obama-era policy of openness was due to “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.”

Trump is relying on a federal court ruling that most of the logs are “presidential records” and are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. I think this ruling should be challenged. I yearn to see the visitors he met personally with in the Oval Office whom he does not want me to see.

Robert Morton is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), enjoys writing about the U.S. Intelligence Community, and relishes traveling to the Florida Keys and Key West, the Bahamas and Caribbean. He combines both passions in his Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series. Check out his latest spy thriller: MISSION OF VENGEANCE.