White House says it does not keep visitor logs at Biden’s Delaware home
President Joe Biden after arriving aboard Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023.
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
White House officials said earlier this week that there are no visitor logs that keep track of who comes and goes from President Joe Biden’s personal residence in Wilmington, Delaware, where six classified documents were discovered in recent days.
A top House Republican demanded Sunday that the White House turn over visitor logs for Biden’s home, citing what he called the “serious national security implications” of the fact that the documents may have been accessible to people without security clearances.
“It is troubling that classified documents have been improperly stored at the home of President Biden for at least six years, raising questions about who may have reviewed or had access to classified information,” wrote Rep. James R. Comer, R-Ky., chair of the Oversight and Accountability Committee.
But a spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s Office said no such logs exist because Biden’s home is not an official government property.
“Like every president across decades of modern history, his personal residence is personal,” spokesperson Ian Sams said. “But upon taking office, President Biden restored the norm and tradition of keeping White House visitors’ logs, including publishing them regularly, after the previous administration ended them.”
Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the Secret Service, said his agency does not track people who visit a president’s personal home, either.
“The Secret Service doesn’t maintain visitor logs at the private residences of protectees,” Guglielmi said. “The visitor logs that are kept at government buildings are part of the National Archives and Records Administration, and while we have access to those, we are not the custodian of those records and logs.”
The demands by Republicans for transparency in the case of Biden’s classified documents highlight the political danger for the president, who criticized former President Donald Trump when boxes of classified records were found at his Florida residence.
Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate the documents found in Biden’s home and office. In November, Garland appointed a different special counsel to investigate Trump’s handling of sensitive documents and his failure to return all of them, even after being subpoenaed.
The two cases are different. Trump fought with officials for months about whether to return government materials in his possession. In Biden’s case, his aides and lawyers returned the documents and contacted authorities swiftly after discovering them on their own.
In addition, documents found at Biden’s residence were in a garage in his private home, which largely serves as a gathering place for the president and his family on the weekends. By contrast, Trump’s Florida estate, known as Mar-a-Lago, is a private club that regularly hosts large parties and events, often close to where the classified documents were found.
On social media on Monday, the former president mocked Biden for keeping classified documents in his home. He also bragged: “Mar-a-Lago is a highly secured facility, with Security Cameras all over the place, and watched over by staff & our great Secret Service. I have INFO on everyone!”
But Biden’s Republican critics, including Comer, are seeking transparency in ways they have not for Trump.
Asked on Monday whether the Oversight Committee would be requesting from Trump the “INFO on everyone” from Mar-a-Lago, a spokesperson for Comer declined to answer. Instead, he offered a statement that did not address why the committee had sought visitor logs from Biden’s home, but not Trump’s.
“The American people deserve transparency, not secrecy,” spokesperson Austin Hacker said. “We will continue to press the Biden administration for answers about who had access to these classified documents.”
Aides to former presidents lashed out at Comer’s request, noting that former administrations had not kept logs of the people who came and went from a president’s private home.
“Either completely uninformed or deliberately misleading,” Eric Schultz, who was a spokesperson for President Barack Obama, tweeted on Monday. “Not how this works.”
Schultz noted that there were no logs kept for the homes of Trump, former President George W. Bush or former President George H.W. Bush.
“No logs from Trump’s homes, Crawford ranch, Kennebunkport, or any President’s family home,” he wrote.
Administrations do keep visitor logs for the White House. During Obama’s tenure, officials released those records several times each year in an effort to be candid about who was meeting with Obama and other top officials, though the names of some visitors were excluded.
Trump’s White House did not release visitor logs. Biden restarted the practice when he took office.