On the heels of his first major legislative failure, the president's political opponents just launched a pointed and corrective effort to keep his actions transparent to his constituents. Democrats trolled Donald Trump with the MAR-A-LAGO Act this week, a new bill which would force Trump to turn over the guest list for his "Winter White House," and anywhere else he "regularly conducts official business."
The hilariously-named bill is part of the ongoing governmental adjustment to the Trump era, which has revealed how much of the presidency was enshrined in tradition rather than law. In response to Trump's frequent trips to his Floridian getaway, Democratic lawmakers contend that even though Mar-A-Lago is privately owned, the country has a right to know what's going on where the president hangs out.
"Americans have long had the right to know who has access and influence in the White House, and this tradition of sunlight on inner workings of the executive branch must continue," Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, one of the bill's co-authors, said in a statement.
Don't be mistaken about how much of an intentional jab this bill is at Trump — "MAR-A-LAGO" isn't the actual name of the legislation, it's actually an acronym. The full title of the bill is the "Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act," which could be the central exhibit in the American Museum of Pettiness (it doesn't exist, but someone should totally start it). I don't know about you, but I would give absolutely anything to have been in the brainstorming session where they figured out what each letter would stand for.
The bill presents an interesting legal conundrum for Trump, who is once again caught between the rock of his business interests and the hard place of his responsibility to the American people. The Trump Organization may try to oppose the law citing privacy concerns, but the appearance of intentional secrecy could further endanger his sinking approval ratings. With the fallout from the failed American Health Care Act last week, Trump may finally start to watch out for his popularity before it kills his ability to govern entirely, in which case he'll need to support the law to avoid further criticism.
It's also unclear if there is any real legal grounds to challenge the bill — considering that government business is now frequently conducted at Mar-A-Lago (Trump has traveled to his various properties every weekend of his presidency thus far), it certainly seems to qualify as a space that the American people should be entitled to more knowledge about. As Sen. Carper pointed out, public access to documentation of the president's guests at the White House is mandated by law, so it's very possible that the same requirements could be extended to openly accessible properties owned by the president as well.
Though the bill may not pass through the Republican Congress, it's still a solid way to hit Trump in one of his weakest spots. With the failure of the AHCA hanging over his head, Trump may even feel pressured enough to offer his support to the bill and gain points for transparency and cooperation. However, he doesn't tend to play by the rules of presidency, which is kind of the point of the bill, so don't get your hopes up about its chances of becoming law.