CREW’s senior counsel, Anne Weissman, has spoken with Obama Justice Department attorneys about the coal-industry log case, which is still pending. But she says she’s received no indication that the White House’s promised review might lead to a recognition that the records are fully accessible via FOIA requests, only that the White House might decide to grant some log requests on a case by case basis.

“Our position is that a discretionary release isn’t enough, and that we’re entitled to these records as a matter of law,” says Weissman.

Regardless, neither the coal nor the health-care-executive request is likely to net much unexpected information—the White House has made little secret about who it’s meeting with.

“The thing about Abramoff was that the president was saying he’s never met the guy,” says Weissman.

So what’s the issue?

“Are they doing it because they want the ability to deny it when it really matters?” says Weismann.

One wonders what the DNC, circa 2006, would have to say about that.


UPDATE 7/23: Late last night, shortly before the President’s prime time press conference on health care reform, White House Counsel Gregory Craig released a letter (available as a pdf) purporting to list the dates of visits by CREW’s targeted executives. CREW, while pleased with the disclosure, writes at its website that the letter “in no way satisfies” their FOIA request, in part because the law requires the release of the actual records. Craig tellingly closes his letter with a promise to continue to review “the White House’s general policy governing the discretionary release of visitor records.” (Emphasis added.)

As long as the White House claims that access to these records is only on a “discretionary” basis, they are denying that the records are FOIAable as a matter of law, and are reserving the right to deny any or all requests for visitor logs, for any (or no) reason at all.

Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.