American Oversight today sued the Trump administration to determine whether real-estate developers Tom Barrack, Richard LeFrak, and Steven Roth have been using their ties to President Donald Trump to influence federal housing policy.
Reporting by Forbes and records obtained by American Oversight suggest that Trump’s relationship with Barrack, LeFrak, and Roth has continued since he took office. All three men have held positions close to the government and the White House — for example, Barrack headed Trump’s inaugural committee, which has been the subject of an investigation by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. And LeFrak and Roth led a short-lived infrastructure advisory council. Despite their proximity to the president none of these individuals hold an official government position and therefore have not been subject to the ethics requirements or public scrutiny that would accompany formal government employment.
In April, American Oversight filed two Freedom of Information Act requests for communications that Barrack, LeFrak, and Roth had with the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. These agencies oversee federal policy regarding housing, rental assistance, economic development and the Federal Home Loan Bank System, areas in which the three real-estate investors have significant interests. Today’s lawsuit comes after the federal government has failed to provide records in response to that request more than four months later.
“It’s been clear since day one of the Trump administration that the president had an open-door policy for his wealthy friends,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “The public has a right to know who these men are, and what influence they have over the federal government.”
Tom Barrack has appeared in numerous documents obtained by American Oversight, including in Treasury Department calendars reported on last week by Bloomberg in its story about Barrack’s investment with Saudi Arabia. And a new report from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform describes Barrack’s efforts in supporting the plan to sell U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.
American Oversight’s complaint is available here: