Lawsuit Seeks Records of Trump Family Influence over Minnesota Mining Project

During the early weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, the administration began working to reverse prior decisions banning new mining developments near a pristine Minnesota wilderness area, ultimately renewing leases for a Chilean mining company headed by the family of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s D.C. landlord.

American Oversight today sued the Trump administration for records related to the decision to renew the leases for Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of Chilean mining giant Antofagasta PLC. Billionaire Andrónico Luksic purchased the $5.5 million mansion currently occupied by the president’s oldest daughter and son-in-law shortly after the 2016 election, and Tuesday’s lawsuit aims to shed light on any outside influence that may have shaped the decision to renew the mining license, including what if any role Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner played.

The decision to renew the mining lease was the focus of an extensive report by the New York Times on Tuesday. The mine in question sits on the border of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters wilderness area, and environmental groups have raised concerns about water pollution and other risks from the mine.

The Trump administration announced that it would be moving to renew Twin Metals’ leases in late 2017, overturning an Obama administration decision to deny the leases and prematurely ending a formal review of the operation’s environmental impact. The reversal followed intense lobbying by Antofagasta PLC, including a meeting between then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and representatives of Twin Metals Minnesota. American Oversight previously uncovered calendars showing meetings between lobbyists for the Twin Metals project and senior aides at DOI.

The leases were formally renewed last month, and the reversal raises further questions about Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s relationship with Luksic and Antofagasta PLC, and any impact that it may have had on the administration’s policy decisions. Richard Painter, former White House chief ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, has criticized the arrangement between Luksic and the couple, saying it “looks bad.”

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner rent Luksic’s house in the Kalorama neighborhood for $15,000 per month. According to reporting by the Wall Street Journal, the rent is in line with similarly priced homes in the area, but it seems to be a poor financial investment for the landlord.

“Whether it’s booking hotel suites, granting trademarks, or renting out their D.C. mansion, lobbyists and foreign interests have made it a priority to develop generous financial relationships with the Trump family,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “The public has a right to know if the first family is using its political influence to return the favor.”

In early 2019, American Oversight filed four Freedom of Information Act requests seeking documentation from the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture and several of their component agencies. In addition to official records related to the decision to renew the mining lease, American Oversight seeks the release of communications among relevant agencies, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Andrónico Luksic, and any employee of Antofagasta PLC or its subsidiary Twin Metals Minnesota. Today’s suit comes after both agencies failed to provide final responses to those requests.

The complaint filed by American Oversight is available here.

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