It’s not a surprise that so many of President Joe Biden’s accomplishments in his first few months in office have been reversals of Trump’s policies and practices. In this case, it was a lack of transparency about who is visiting the White House that the Biden administration is seeking to address.
The Presidential Records Act requires that a sitting president make their visitor logs publicly available, and was originally established after Nixon’s attempts to hide the Watergate tapes, but the time frame required for releasing them is less clear. Per The Guardian, the Trump administration announced in 2017 that it would not be making visitor records public, citing concerns regarding national security, but according to People, those records are expected to be made public in five years.
Though the Obama administration was also initially reluctant to release records in real time, but voluntarily made available over 3 million records, citing “President Obama’s commitment to government transparency” which are currently archived at Obama White House.
In keeping with that tradition, the Biden administration has released visitor logs from January, and wrote in a statement that visitor logs will be made available to the public on a monthly basis.
Per Whitehouse.gov, “These logs give the public a look into the visitors entering and exiting the White House campus for appointments, tours, and official business — making good on President Biden’s commitment to restore integrity, transparency, and trust in government.”
Here's who has been visiting the White House under Joe Biden
The White House has stated that the current release includes 400 records, but withholds those that would “implicate privacy, national security, or other concerns” as well as those deemed “purely personal” for the first and second families.
Bloomberg reports that of the first 400 visitors, the Marine Band and Herald Trumpets who performed at the inauguration account for nearly one in five. The most frequent visitor was Dana Mittelman, a sign language interpreter employed to make Biden events more accessible. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Becky Pringle both met with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on January 21st and several visitors seemed to align with the date of the swearing in ceremony for Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin (via People).
While the release has generally been viewed as a restorative act, there has been criticism that the record do not include virtual meetings, which, under COVID restrictions, have comprised a large portion of White House Communications. Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics said on Twitter, “It’s great to see these again after four years. I do still wish they’d include virtual visits in these logs.”
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