- The Washington Times - Friday, May 7, 2021

The Biden White House has released its first set of visitors’ logs, detailing a relatively sparse guest list during the pandemic and reversing a Trump-era policy.

Among the 400 guests during the last 12 days in January, the only period covered in the first batch, were two teachers-union presidents — Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Becky Pringle of the National Education Association. They were hosted by first lady Jill Biden, also an educator, on the administration’s first full day in office.

The list also included Marine Band members who performed on Inauguration Day and an American Sign Language interpreter who visited seven times.

The logs provide the names of visitors to the White House for appointments or official business. The names of people on tour groups also will be included when the pandemic rules are eased.

“As vaccinations increase and the pandemic response continues to make progress, we look forward to welcoming many more visitors onto the White House campus and back into the People’s House,” the White House said in a statement Friday.

The White House didn’t release the names of people who took part in virtual meetings, which have been far more prevalent during the pandemic. 

That prompted former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer to tweet, “What a joke of a ‘story’ — almost all of the White House meetings are virtual because of #covid and they will not release any information on those.”

Former President Donald Trump’s White House refused to release visitors’ logs, saying in April 2017 that doing so would create “grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.” 

By law, those records will become public in five years, unless Mr. Trump chooses to keep them secret for an additional seven years. 

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called the Biden administration’s disclosures “a victory for transparency.”

“But they should include virtual meetings, too, as much of the world is still working remotely,” the watchdog group said.

The Obama White House posted its first set of visitors’ records online in December 2009 but omitted the first eight months of his first term.

The Biden White House will make exceptions for national security reasons, as well as for “purely personal” guests of the first and second families. 

Like the Obama White House, the Biden team also will withhold records of “particularly sensitive meetings.”

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