Trump embraces secrecy and loses public trust

A protester in Seattle holds a sign during one of many rallies across the nation on Saturday calling on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns.
A protester in Seattle holds a sign during one of many rallies across the nation on Saturday calling on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns. The Associated Press

As Donald Trump keeps writing his own rules, he worsens his record as the least transparent president in decades and loses the public’s trust.

The administration announced Friday that it will not release logs on visitors to the White House, reversing a policy from the Obama administration, which eventually disclosed 6 million entries. The public also has little idea who Trump is meeting during his frequent weekend jaunts to the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Who is trying to influence the president?

After thousands of people marched around the nation on Saturday demanding he release his tax returns, Trump dismissed them, claiming that protesters were paid. Democrats are also pressing the case, saying that the returns could shed light on Trump’s connections with Russia and that they will try to block Trump’s tax reform plan unless he relents. The dodge of his taxes being audited has run out.

What is he trying to hide?

The White House is issuing secret waivers for administration officials who violate ethics rules, The New York Times and ProPublica reported Saturday. Many of the appointees are former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who are now writing policies for their former industries. The Goldman Sachs crowd is elbowing out the populism of Steve Bannon as the White House becomes a corporate stronghold.

What happened to Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp”?

All the secrecy is all the more galling because Trump attacked Barack Obama on transparency and has taken away some privacy of Americans by signing a bill making it easier for internet companies to sell browsing histories and other customer information.

Does he not see the hypocrisy?

White House spokesman Sean Spicer is being forced to use ever more flimsy and convoluted explanations to defend Trump. Monday, Spicer argued that the president often opens up part of his meetings with business leaders and others. He’s also made a habit of inviting photographers to witness his signings of executive orders.

Doesn’t he understand that photo-ops aren’t genuine transparency?

While Trump deserves credit for holding news conferences, those are often head-scratching performances that distract from decisions he’s actually making behind closed doors.

A president who took office under such a cloud for potential conflicts of interest had two choices. He could try to reassure the American people by going above and beyond to be open. Or he could double down and try to hide even more.

It’s clear which course Trump has taken, and it could help explain why his approval ratings are historically low. In a new Gallup survey, only 45 percent of Americans say Trump keeps his promises, down from 62 percent in early February. While he likes to say “believe me” during his speeches, only 36 percent say he is honest and trustworthy, down from 42 percent.

Trump can’t succeed without the public’s trust, and he can’t win it back without more transparency.