Tuesday, January 21, 2020

How Young Donald Learned To Weaponize His Racism


Over the weekend, a tweet from Ro Khanna alerted me to a favorite Trump shenanigan-- a roll back to an Obama housing desegregation rule. The very first time the name "Donald J. Trump" appeared in the New York Times, a thrill for the young publicity hound, was in connection to a government law suit in which he and his crooked, racist father were charged with violating a civil rights act in regard to housing. In short, they were refusing to rent apartments to blacks and hispanics even though the properties were built with government loans that prohibited racial discrimination. When the Trumps were able to worm their way out of it with countersuits and by making themselves unbearably annoying it set Trump on a path of action about how to get away with criminal behavior that is apparent today-- and in every phase of his miserable life.

A few months before he managed to steal the 2016 election, the New York Times reprised that episode: 'No Vacancies' For Blacks: How Donald Trump Got His Start, And Was First Accused Of Bias. Jonathan Mahler and Steve Eder reported on the Trumps' "practice of turning away potential black tenants [which] was painstakingly documented by activists and organizations that viewed equal housing as the next frontier in the civil rights struggle."
The Justice Department undertook its own investigation and, in 1973, sued Trump Management for discriminating against blacks. Both Fred Trump, the company’s chairman, and Donald Trump, its president, were named as defendants. It was front-page news, and for Donald, amounted to his debut in the public eye.

“Absolutely ridiculous,” he was quoted as saying of the government’s allegations.

Looking back, Mr. Trump’s response to the lawsuit can be seen as presaging his handling of subsequent challenges, in business and in politics. Rather than quietly trying to settle-- as another New York developer had done a couple of years earlier-- he turned the lawsuit into a protracted battle, complete with angry denials, character assassination, charges that the government was trying to force him to rent to “welfare recipients” and a $100 million countersuit accusing the Justice Department of defamation.

When it was over, Mr. Trump declared victory, emphasizing that the consent decree he ultimately signed did not include an admission of guilt.

But an investigation by the New York Times-- drawing on decades-old files from the New York City Commission on Human Rights, internal Justice Department records, court documents and interviews with tenants, civil rights activists and prosecutors-- uncovered a long history of racial bias at his family’s properties, in New York and beyond.

...[Fred Trump's] establishment as one of the city’s biggest developers was hardly free of controversy: The Senate Banking Committee subpoenaed him in 1954 during an investigation into profiteering off federal housing loans. Under oath, he acknowledged that he had wildly overstated the costs of a development to obtain a larger mortgage from the government.

In 1966, as the investigative journalist Wayne Barrett detailed in “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth,” a New York legislative committee accused Fred Trump of using state money earmarked for middle-income housing to build a shopping center instead. One lawmaker called Mr. Trump “greedy and grasping.”

By this point, the Trump organization’s business practices were beginning to come under scrutiny from civil rights groups that had received complaints from prospective African-American tenants.

People like Maxine Brown.

Mr. Leibowitz, the rental agent at the Wilshire, remembered Ms. Brown repeatedly inquiring about the apartment. “Finally, she realized what it was all about,” he said.

Ms. Brown’s first instinct was to let the matter go; she was happy enough at the Y.W.C.A. “I had a big room and two meals a day for five dollars a week,” she said in an interview.

But a friend, Mae Wiggins, who had also been denied an apartment at the Wilshire, told her that she ought to have her own place, with a private bathroom and a kitchen. She encouraged Ms. Brown to file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, as she was doing.

“We knew there was prejudice in renting,” Ms. Wiggins recalled. “It was rampant in New York. It made me feel really bad, and I wanted to do something to right the wrong.”

Mr. Leibowitz was called to testify at the commission’s hearing on Ms. Brown’s case. Asked to estimate how many blacks lived in Mr. Trump’s various properties, he remembered replying: “To the best of my knowledge, none.”

After the hearing, Ms. Brown was offered an apartment in the Wilshire, and in the spring of 1964, she moved in. For 10 years, she said, she was the only African-American in the building.

Complaints about the Trump organization’s rental policies continued to mount: By 1967, state investigators found that out of some 3,700 apartments in Trump Village, seven were occupied by African-American families.

Like Ms. Brown, the few minorities who did live in Trump-owned buildings often had to force their way in.

...Unlike the public schools, the housing market could not be desegregated simply by court order. Even after passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibited racial discrimination in housing, developments in white neighborhoods continued to rebuff blacks.

For years, it fell largely to local civil rights groups to highlight the problem by sending white “testers” into apartment complexes after blacks had been turned away.

“Everything was sort of whispers and innuendo and you wanted to try to bring it out into the open,” recalled Phyllis Kirschenbaum, who volunteered for Operation Open City, a housing rights advocacy organization. “I’d walk in with my freckles and red hair and Jewish name and get an apartment immediately.”

...Donald Trump said he had first heard about the lawsuit, which was filed in the fall of 1973, on his car radio.

The government had charged him, his father and their company, Trump Management Inc., with violating the Fair Housing Act.

Another major New York developer, the LeFrak Organization, had been hit with a similar suit a few years earlier. Its founder, Samuel LeFrak, had appeared at a news conference alongside the United States attorney, trumpeting a consent agreement to prohibit discrimination in his buildings by saying it would “make open housing in our cities a reality.” The LeFrak company even offered the equivalent of one month’s rent to help 50 black families move into predominantly white buildings.

Donald Trump took a different approach. He retained Senator Joseph McCarthy’s red-baiting counsel, Roy Cohn, to defend him. Mr. Trump soon called his own news conference-- to announce his countersuit against the government.

The government’s lawyers took as their starting point the years of research conducted by civil rights groups at Trump properties.

“We did our own investigation and enlarged the case,” said Elyse Goldweber, who as a young assistant United States attorney worked on the lawsuit, U.S.A. v. Trump.

A former Trump superintendent named Thomas Miranda testified that multiple Trump Management employees had instructed him to attach a separate piece of paper with a big letter “C” on it-- for “colored”-- to any application filed by a black apartment-seeker.

The Trumps went on the offensive, filing a contempt-of-court charge against one of the prosecutors, accusing her of turning the investigation into a “Gestapo-like interrogation.” The Trumps derided the lawsuit as a pressure tactic to get them to sign a consent decree like the one agreed to by Mr. LeFrak.

The judge dismissed both the countersuit and the contempt-of-court charge. After nearly two years of legal wrangling, the Trumps gave up and signed a consent decree.

As is customary, it did not include an admission of guilt. But it did include pages of stipulations intended to ensure the desegregation of Trump properties.

Equal housing activists celebrated the agreement as more robust than the one signed by Mr. LeFrak. It required that Trump Management provide the New York Urban League with a weekly list of all its vacancies.

This did not stop Mr. Trump from declaring victory. “In the end the government couldn’t prove its case, and we ended up making a minor settlement without admitting any guilt,” he wrote in The Art of the Deal.

Only this was not quite the end.

A few years later, the government accused the Trumps of violating the consent decree. “We believe that an underlying pattern of discrimination continues to exist in the Trump Management organization,” a Justice Department lawyer wrote to Mr. Cohn in 1978.

Once again, the government marshaled numerous examples of blacks being denied Trump apartments. But this time, it also identified a pattern of racial steering.

While more black families were now renting in Trump-owned buildings, the government said, many had been confined to a small number of complexes. And tenants in some of these buildings had complained about the conditions, from falling plaster to rusty light fixtures to bloodstained floors.

The Trumps effectively wore the government down. The original consent decree expired before the Justice Department had accumulated enough evidence to press its new case.
This past October, ACLU staffers Linda Morris and Alejandro Ortiz, warned that Trump was about to slam the door on fair housing: Trump Administration's new rule would dismantle critical housing protections for the most vulnerable and marginalized communities. It's as though Trump was looking for revenge against a government that called him and his family out on their racism. "Fifty years after the enactment of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), housing discrimination remains a national disgrace in the United States. Across the country, a growing tide of housing providers, perhaps emboldened by Trump’s anti-“other” rhetoric, discriminate against the very communities the FHA was designed to protect. In 2017 alone, there were nearly 29,000 reported complaints of housing discrimination across the country. Despite growing diversity in population, residential segregation persists at alarming rates hurting local schools, property values, and much more. Just this year, Black homeownership rates dropped to a record low of 40.6% which is the lowest level recorded by the Census Bureau since 1950. Despite this ongoing crisis, the Trump Administration proposed a new rule that will dismantle critical housing protections for the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
In one of this administration’s most outrageous attacks on civil rights yet, the proposed rule will make a mockery of one of the FHA’s most critical enforcement tools: the Disparate Impact Rule. The Rule allows potential victims of housing discrimination to challenge unjustified policies or practices that disproportionately harm them. Courts have recognized disparate impact liability under the FHA for decades, culminating in the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision affirming disparate impact liability in Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project.  There, the Court explained the significance of disparate impact liability: “[H]ousing restrictions that function unfairly to exclude minorities from certain neighborhoods without any sufficient justification . . . reside at the heartland of disparate-impact liability.” Under the Obama administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) acknowledged this principle by formally codifying the Disparate Impact Rule in 2013, and consistently affirming the existing Disparate Impact Rule through its fair housing enforcement and guidance as recently as 2016.

...Why does Trump want to undermine this rule? Because it works. Disparate impact liability is a tool like none other in the law with numerous examples of how it has helped dismantle the many systemic barriers to fair housing. The Disparate Impact Rule has been critical in challenging covert or disguised forms of housing discrimination that otherwise escape easy classification. Advocates have invoked the Disparate Impact Rule in challenging discriminatory zoning regulations, predatory mortgage lending practices that charge excessive rates to people of color or people with disabilities, overly restrictive occupancy requirements that shut out families with children, and policies that threaten housing for survivors of gender-based violence and women of color.

By early January, HUD was proposing a rule that would redefine the way jurisdictions are required to promote fair housing and scrap a key assessment tool used to map racial segregation under the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. The 2015 rule-- which the Obama administration introduced as a way to beef up enforcement of the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968-- required local governments to track patterns of poverty and segregation with a checklist of 92 questions in order to gain access to federal housing funds.

Lisa Rice, executive vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said the proposal is "a step in the wrong direction. It would weaken fair housing enforcement and basically abdicate jurisdictions and public housing authorities from their fair housing responsibilities. It’s even weaker than the scheme that HUD had before the 2015 rule was implemented …That’s the system that the [Government Accountability Office] found to be completely inept and ineffective."
“The Obama administration’s fair housing rule made the strongest effort in decades to reverse harmful patterns of segregation and discriminatory practices in communities across the country,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Carson, the only black member of President Donald Trump's cabinet, “is scrapping years of extensive input and intensive work that went into the fair housing rule and essentially reverting to the agency’s previous flawed and failed system,” Yentel said.
Boston progressive congressional candidate, Brianna Wu told me that affordable housing is the single biggest issue for many voters in her district. "Of course Trump would reverse any protections to end segregation and discrimination of affordable housing," she said. "Any initiative from the Obama Administration that actually works and helps people is on Trump’s hit list. This is yet another example of Trump’s blatant racism and trying to line his pockets. Affordable housing and gentrification is a significant issue in Boston and other areas of my district. My opponent, Stephen Lynch, has been silent on the issue to appeal to his donors from the real estate industry. I know this has been said many times before, but it bears repeating-- elections have consequences. If we keep electing real estate 'moguls' and representatives who are owned by the real estate industry, change will never happen. We have a lot of work to do, and truly affordable housing for all will be a top priority for me when I get to Congress, both for my district and the nation."

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At 5:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pointless pedantry. we already know he's been a racist his entire life. We already know he skates because he's rich enough to do SLAPP suits and can outlast almost anything in the court system. We already know he's among the dumbest, most despicable people to ever have lived.

Cover biden's racism with equal comprehensive clarity. We've gotten bits and pieces but not a complete timeline. It would be illuminating.

Maybe after all this some among us might ponder how the fuck we got so fucked that we will be faced with an election between these fucking fucks!

At 6:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Cover [Biden]'s racism with equal comprehensive clarity."

I second this motion.

I fail to understand how Biden retains SO much support from Black voters. Just because obamanation chose him in a failed attempt to keep racists of his own back shouldn't mean that the cachet that only the uninformed have of that "moderate 1985 Reagan Republican" should benefit one of the harshest Democratic racists of modern times.


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