Seven members and guests of Mar-a-Lago say the U.S. Secret Service checks names of visitors.
ProPublica by Leora Smith and Derek Kravitz
October 16, 2017
Last month, the Trump administration said it could not comply with a court order to disclose the names of people who met with the president at Mar-a-Lago in part because they do “not maintain any system for keeping track” of them.
In response to a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, seeking to make the records public, Department of Justice lawyers insisted “the Secret Service does not maintain any ‘visitor logs’ at Mar-a-Lago.”
But seven Mar-a-Lago members and their guests told ProPublica that uniformed officers, who appear to be Secret Service, stand at the doors of the resort on weekends when the president is there, and hold lists of people approved for access.
Anne Weisman, CREW’s attorney on the case, said the visitor lists, whether they are compiled by Trump Organization employees or the federal government, are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and should be made public.
Several Mar-a-Lago members and guests said security checked their names against lists if they entered the club on weekends when Trump was present. When Lynn Aronberg, who runs a public relations firm in West Palm Beach, visited the resort this year during one of the president’s visits, she had to provide her driver’s license to officers at the door. While she is not certain the officers were Secret Service agents, Aronberg said they were dressed very differently from the police officers she is used to seeing around Palm Beach. The officers held a clipboard, and checked her name against what looked to her like a list of names attached to it.
Other visitors remember officers holding a clipboard at the door. Boca Raton resident Heidi Klein has visited Mar-a-Lago “probably 10 times” as a member’s guest or for charity events. She also said the officers looked at a list before allowing her through, and that they always check guests’ names.
Phil Nicozisis, a Mar-a-Lago member who runs his own real estate development company, says that every time he brings a guest to the Palm Beach club, he has to email the club and provide the visitor’s full name. (This was true before Trump’s inauguration but Mar-a-Lago is now stricter about the rule.)
Members are told of the president’s visits in advance, Nicozisis said, so that they can prepare for the heightened security and scrutiny of those entering.
The Secret Service and Department of Justice declined to comment on the Mar-a-Lago visitor lists, citing the ongoing lawsuit with CREW. The Trump Organization did not respond to ProPublica requests for comment.
Former Secret Service officials and other experts say it’s exceedingly unlikely that the government does not know who is getting close to the president. In addition to keeping track of people coming into the club, the Secret Service also regularly conducts criminal background checks on any guests or staff members who will spend more than a passing moment in physical proximity to the president. This protocol applies at Mar-a-Lago in the same way it does everywhere else the president goes. [READ MORE]