We obtained email communications from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) discussing FOIA requests with former Trump family aide turned HUD senior official Lynne Patton, in which Patton stated that American Oversight needs to “get a life.”
Patton (whose resume, which we obtained, lists no experience in housing) had previously worked for the Trump family as an event planner and helped run the Eric Trump Foundation. Trump appointed Patton to HUD in early 2017, and in June of that year was promoted to head the agency’s work in New Jersey and New York — where President Trump owns property. This is particularly concerning given the fact that he’s refused to divest himself from his businesses.
Since its founding, American Oversight has submitted nearly 60 Freedom of Information Act requests to HUD for Patton’s communications as well as records related to FOIA policy changes, Trump family influence, and questionable promotions at the agency. In October 2017, a HUD official notified Patton of new requests for her calendars and her communications with the Trump family, and Lynne Patton responded by saying we “need to get a life. And they can FOIA that!” — which, of course, is exactly what we did.
Other communications we obtained recently show that because of our FOIA requests, Patton had to defend her qualifications (or lack thereof) for her promotion at HUD. After American Oversight obtained her resume, a Washington Post reporter contacted Patton for a comment about her thin credentials.
Before a scheduled breakfast with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York in October 2017, Patton had to be reminded that she cannot talk about Starrett City, a federally subsidized housing property in Brooklyn that President Trump owned a stake in and that Patton had agreed to recuse herself from discussing. In May 2018, it was reported that the president made about $20 million from the sale of the property, which was officially approved by HUD. In early February, American Oversight submitted a FOIA to find out more about HUD’s decision to approve the sale.
HUD documents we obtained show a recurring theme of Trump and Carson family connections with HUD senior staffers being questionably deployed. In July 2017, the HUD secretary’s son, Ben Carson Jr., introduced Patton to real-estate developer John Bennardo. Later that month, records we received show that Patton had a meeting with Bennardo — at a building owned by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — to discuss Trump hotels.
Shortly after her 2017 promotion, Patton also contacted Lara Trump, Eric Trump’s wife (Patton had planned their wedding), and Blair Brandt, a New York developer, for help in organizing a government pet food drive. Lara Trump, who has been involved with various pet and animal-welfare causes, said she could get Trump Organization folks involved. Patton replied, “The more I think about it, maybe we don’t get Trump Org or Giles Parscale involved since it’s technically a government food drive.”
Patton hasn’t always been so reluctant to use her relationship with the Trump family for personal and professional benefit while at HUD. American Oversight obtained records that reveal an attempt by Patton in early 2017 to get another HUD employee fired. One email even noted that “Eric Trump agrees” and “told me to call Jared [Kushner], if necessary. ”
Patton was also contacted about her social media use soon after joining the administration by HUD Chief of Staff Sheila Greenwood, who wrote in an email, “As a HUD employee, you are expected to only work with HUD employees on matters regarding the Department. No outside parties/proxies/surrogates not employed directly by HUD should be utilized without prior permission from [Office of Public Affairs] HQ. ”
Patton’s swift and surprising rise at HUD is not an anomaly. Many other officials who received significant promotions or raises had Trump or Carson campaign work listed on their resumes.
In late January, American Oversight submitted several FOIA requests for Lynne Patton’s communications with Trump-affiliated organizations, the White House, and the Trump family. So long as Patton’s missteps continue and the Department of Housing and Urban Development remains best by concerns about misconduct, we’ll be far too busy to “get a life.”