Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) sent a letter to Trump’s trust and HUD Secretary Ben Carson on Friday, demanding thousands of pages of documents and emails about the many potential conflicts of interest involved in President Trump’s financial interest in the huge Brooklyn apartment complex known as Starrett City be turned over by July 28 to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“There are numerous actions that the President or his administration could take to financially benefit himself, his family members or his business associates in Starrett City,” they wrote.
“Many real estate companies receive government subsidies to support affordable housing, but unique conflicts exist with regard to Starrett City because the president is on both sides of the negotiations,” the letter said. “He oversees the government entity providing taxpayer funds and he pockets some of that money himself.”
The New York Times added:
Mr. Cummings and Mr. Jeffries said Mr. Trump’s financial disclosures show that the president’s stake in Starrett City is valued at $5 million to $25 million, while the complex as a whole is probably valued at more than $625 million. The letter, citing a Washington Post report, said Starrett City’s owners have received more than $490 million in rent subsidies since May 2013.
The congressmen also pointed out that about a decade ago, the owners of Starrett City had reached an agreement to sell the complex for $1.3 billion and that Mr. Trump had praised the deal, which would have made him about $52 million. However, that deal and others to sell the complex were blocked by the housing department because federal officials were concerned that the buyers might not be able to maintain the apartments as affordable.
The lawmakers said they are concerned about Mr. Trump’s “representatives” putting “a thumb on the scales to benefit the president and his business partners when Starrett City is refinanced during the president’s term in the office,” adding that Mr. Trump’s proposed budget would make steep cuts to many housing programs but “would leave the type of federal aid that flows to the owners of Starrett City mostly intact.”
Reps. Cummings and Jeffries said the long list of conflicts already facing Trump is “exacerbated” by the appointment of Lynne Patton, the Trump family’s longtime event planner, to run the HUD regional office that oversees New York.
“Not only do we have concerns regarding Ms. Patton’s qualifications…and fitness for her new role with HUD, but we have serious concerns that her self-described loyalty to the President and his family could influence HUD’s discretion on issues related to Starrett City,” they wrote.