Politics

Democrats Ask Secret Service About Background Checks at Mar-a-Lago

Also want president to release White House visitor logs

Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and seven other Senate Democrats say President Donald Trump’s conduct of official business at his private properties “appears to be unprecedented in recent times.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Several Senate Democrats want to know if the Secret Service is running background checks on visitors to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

The eight Democrats led by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island are asking Secret Service Deputy Director William J. Callahan about the procedures in place at Trump properties when the president is there and apparently conducting business.

The Democrats ask if the Workers and Visitors Entry System, or WAVES, is being implemented at the resort in Palm Beach, Florida, or at other properties like Trump Tower in New York City.

Visitors to the White House are, as a matter of routine, required to provide personal information including birthdates and birthplaces, as well as Social Security or foreign ID numbers before getting access to the building and grounds.

“If not, what other steps are being taken to conduct background checks [on] people who will be present during President Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago?” the senators wrote in a list of questions for the Secret Service. “Is the Secret Service considering extending these systems, or any other security screenings, for Trump Tower, Bedminster, or other Trump properties at which the president may spend time conducting official businesses? If not, why not?”

The White House announced that Trump dined Saturday night at Mar-a-Lago with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, along with White House Counsel Don McGahn and top advisers Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon.

“President Trump’s conduct of official business at private property to which some members of the public have access appears to be unprecedented in recent times,” the senators wrote. “While we appreciate that every president has the right to some privacy when not in the White House, this president has invited members of the public, who in many cases have paid significant amounts of money for access to him, to watch official business be conducted and has in some cases sought their advice during these breaks from Washington.”

Along with Whitehouse, Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Ron Wyden of Oregon signed the pair of letters to Callahan.

An eighth senator, Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, signed on shortly before the letters were sent.

Joseph P. Clancy, who had been the director of the Secret Service, retired effective last Friday.

In a separate letter to Trump also dated Monday, the same group of Democratic senators also ask whether he plans to continue the Obama administration policy of releasing White House visitor logs.

“Continuing President Obama’s transparency policies would help dispel concerns that the wealthy and the well-connected have unfair access to your White House,” they wrote.

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