On Wednesday evening, the FBI released 389 pages of documents pertaining to the 1970s investigation of racial discrimination in housing units owned by Trump Management Company. The newly released documents from the FBI include notes by law enforcement officials from interviews with building tenants and Trump Management Co. employees.
Trump Management Co. owned 39 buildings with 15,000 apartments and was run by President Donald Trump’s now-deceased father, Fred Trump.
The FBI probe conducted from 1972 to 1974 was the largest of its kind at the time, based on evidence gathered by the New York City Human Rights Commission. Black people looking for apartments in the city were told none were available for rent within Trump properties, while investigators looking into the allegations were promptly offered apartments to rent upon inquiry.
According to The Washington Post, only one to 3.5 percent of occupants in Trump apartment buildings were minorities, making the case against Trump Management Co. one of the most significant violations of the Fair Housing Act that the Justice Department had seen to date.
Following investigations, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division filed a suit against Trump Management Co. in 1973.
Four years out of business school, 27-year-old Donald Trump called the government’s claims “such outrageous lies.” Under the advisement of defense attorney Roy Cohn, Trump Management Co. counter-sued the government for $100 million for false allegations and discrimination.
One employee told investigators they were specifically directed to deny “rent to blacks” and to point them in the direction of other, cheaper buildings for rent: “I asked Fred Trump what his policy was regarding minorities and he said it was absolutely against the law to discriminate. At a later time during my two weeks at [one Trump building], Fred Trump told me not to rent to blacks.” The employee was later fired.
Speaking about the elder Trump, the unnamed former employee of Trump Management Co. recalls Fred Trump saying he would pay for black peoples’ housing if it meant they wouldn’t live in his buildings:
‘[Trump] also wanted me to get rid of the blacks that were in the building by telling them cheap housing was available for them at only $500 down payment, which Trump would offer to pay himself. Trump didn’t tell me where this housing was located.’
The FBI notes also indicate that the same employee believed the company’s rental office would label rental applications with “C” for colored, to distinguish between black and white applicants.
The documents can be accessed in an area of the FBI’s website called “The Vault,” a section of the site filled with information the bureau has received numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the public.
During the first presidential debate against Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, Trump claimed the suit happened when he was young and was brought against “many real estate firms.” The Post’s fact checkers debunked that claim, however, instead discovering that the racial discrimination case was not brought against “many real estate firms”; it was brought against Fred and Donald Trump.
Trump’s comments prove, however, that he once again fails to grasp the big picture. The Justice Department merely wanted the Trumps to agree to rent to African-Americans — the results of the settlement being largely irrelevant. Yet still, after fighting and subsequently losing to the Justice Department, when all was said and done the Trumps still failed to rent to African-Americans.
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