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Aerial view of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. (Photo: New York Daily News Archive, NY Daily News Via Getty Images)

New Bill Aims to Unmask Visitors at Trump's Alternative White Houses

Aptly named 'MAR-A-LAGO Act' would require administration to make visitor logs available for Trump-owned properties where he conducts government business

Jon Queally

Amid reports Saturday that President Donald Trump would spend his afternoon "holding meetings" at a golf course he owns in Virginia, grassroots support is growing for a new bill introduced late this week that would force the president to provide visitor logs for Trump-owned properties where he conducts official government business.

"The American people need to know who has access to the White House if we're going to ‘drain the swamp'. So far, all we've seen from the President is murk." —Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)As The Hill reported, it was "not immediately clear from pool reports who the president was planning to meet" during his afternoon at the Trump International Golf Club outside Washington, D.C., but it was pointed out by others that this is the eighth weekend in a row in which Trump has visited one of the luxury properties owned by his company. Since his inauguration on January 20, Trump has spent more than half his weekends at Mar-a-Lago, the resort estate he owns in Florida and which his administration has frequently referred to as the "Winter White House" or the "Southern White House."

On Friday, Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced a bill that would force the Trump administration to maintain logs for Mar-a-Lago and other venues as a way to compel the level of transparency that is mandated for visitors at the White House. The cleverness of an acronym helps make the point, with the lawmakers calling their proposed law the "Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act" or "MAR-A-LAGO Act."

In the Senate, the bill's original co-sponsors included Sens. Tom Udall (N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Jack Reed (R.I.), while the House version was introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois.

The lawmakers say the bill is a response to the Trump administration's refusal to extend the pro-transparency policy established by former President Barack Obama to release visitor logs at the White House 90 to 120 days after they were created.

Udall suggested the necessity of the bill was obvious and its purpose was a "simple" one. "The American people have a right to know who has access to the president and who has leverage over this administration," he explained in a statement.

"Many Americans are rightly worried about whether the wealthy and well-connected are being given special treatment and undue influence in the Trump White House," Udall continued. "President Trump has assembled a cabinet filled with millionaires and billionaires, he's pursuing an agenda of massive tax cuts for the rich, and the initiation fees at Mar-A-Lago—where people are getting uncommon access to the president and his top advisers—have just doubled to $200,000. By refusing to release the White House visitor logs, President Trump is only validating the rampant concerns about who may be pulling the levers in his administration. The president should end his administration's disturbing pattern of stonewalling information and immediately reinstate the previous administration's policy of publishing White House visitor logs. And given President Trump's unprecedented decision to regularly conduct official business at his private business properties, the Trump administration has an obligation to make public the visitor lists at places like Mar-A-Lago and Trump Tower."

And Sen. Whitehouse added, "The American people need to know who has access to the White House if we're going to ‘drain the swamp'. So far, all we've seen from the President is murk. Maintaining sensible transparency policies would help dispel concerns that the wealthy and the well-connected have unfair access to the Trump White House. If he won't adopt that policy himself, Congress should require it."


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