Draped in secrecy and dubious finances, the administration refuses to come clean about who is visiting Donald Trump's luxury estate — and who's paying for it.
Responding to a federal judge’s order in July, the Trump administration was supposed to make public the visitor logs to Donald Trump’s Florida retreat, Mar-a-Lago. Instead, the administration defied the judge and stiffed the open government watchdog groups that have been pressing for information about visitors to Trump’s so-called "winter White House."
The Trump administration turned over a list of just 22 names of foreign dignitaries and staffers who accompanied Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his February trip to the resort — a skeleton accounting of visitors to the luxury club this year.
The non-disclosure comes as the Washington Post reported Friday that taxpayers footed a bill of more than $1,000 so the government could rent out a room for a two-night stay at Mar-a-Lago back in March.
"The receipt, which was obtained in recent days by the transparency advocacy group Property of the People and verified by The Post, offers one of the first concrete signs that Trump’s use of Mar-a-Lago as the 'Winter White House' has resulted in taxpayer funds flowing directly into the coffers of his private business," according to the Post.
The revelation only adds to the concern that Trump is using his presidency to directly boost the profits at his resort properties. The domestic emoluments clause was intended to prevent a state or foreign government from currying favor with a president by making payments to him.
Specifically, lingering questions include how many four-figure room tabs the government is paying for to cover costs of visitors traveling to see Trump; how much the Secret Serving is paying for its rooms at Mar-a-Lago; and who exactly has visited the private club this year.
In July, a federal judge in New York ordered the Secret Service to turn over all records for Mar-a-Lago. "The Secret Service will complete its search for and processing of ‘responsive records of presidential visitors at Mar-a-Lago,’ and produce any non-exempt responsive records, by September 8, 2017," the judge ruled in a two-page statement.
"The public deserves to know who is coming to meet with the president and his staff," CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said at the time.
On Friday, though, the administration basically balked. But CREW vowed to continue the fight:
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) September 15, 2017
In 2009, the Obama administration settled four lawsuits filed by CREW by agreeing to regularly release the White House visitor logs, according to the group.
"The Trump administration announced in April that it would no longer publicly release White House visitor logs, citing "grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually," CNN noted Friday.
Secrecy remains the calling card of the Trump White House, even in the face of a judge's order and the looming threat of a court date.