Why did Lynne Patton, the Trump administration’s regional head for New York and New Jersey for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), take the job? And what are her experiences of being a high-profile black woman working in the Trump administration?
Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek sat down with Patton, who’s also worked for the Trump Organization for 10 years, most recently as vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation.
Patton talked about her experiences of staying in New York public housing to learn what it was really like there, and more generally, of being a black conservative woman. She also gave her take on the attacks on HUD Secretary Ben Carson, President Donald Trump, his family, and supporters of the administration, especially by the legacy media.
Jan Jekielek: So, Lynne, you’re the regional administrator for HUD here in New York and New Jersey, and that is a pretty important role. You’re implementing the president’s and Secretary Carson’s policies here in this region, and it’s the most populous one. Is that right?
Lynne Patton: Yes. It’s definitely the most densely populated region in the country. We service more HUD clients here in Region 2, which is New York and New Jersey, than any other region in the country. A lot of those clients come from the New York City Housing Authority, which is NYCHA, as everybody knows. It’s the largest public housing authority in the Western Hemisphere, not just the United States. In fact, more people live in NYCHA public housing than the entire city of Miami, which blows people’s minds when I say that.
Mr. Jekielek: It blows my mind.
Ms. Patton: It’s true. And so if you think about that and the context in which they’re living, could you imagine if, for all intents and purposes, the city of Miami lost air conditioning for 80 percent of its residents, particularly the elderly. That’s what’s happening every day in NYCHA.
Mr. Jekielek: I don’t even want to imagine that. So, about a month ago, you actually spent about a month living in NYCHA.
Ms. Patton: Yes, I did.
Mr. Jekielek: And I guess you’ve had a little bit of time maybe to reflect … I’ve heard a little bit about what you experienced in some other interviews. Could you give us a rundown?
Ms. Patton: Of course. Look, you cannot make decisions from a distance. You cannot make life-altering decisions from an ivory tower in Washington, or a corner office at 26 Federal Plaza, where I am in New York City. You have to be on the ground communicating, talking to, experiencing what folks are experiencing. And my idea was not a unique idea. There have been public officials that have done it. I decided to do it for an entire month, because every time I would go to an NYCHA property, they manage to clean up the lobby, the elevators are working, the trash is picked up on time. So I said to myself, “What if I actually lived here? How would they actually take care of these residents better than when I’m not here?”
And, unfortunately, my experiment came true. And in every single property that I lived in, residents were telling me that they have never seen the types of maintenance repairs done. Even proactive maintenance was done, things that haven’t happened in decades. And it’s really sad because obviously, it shouldn’t take a federal official for that to happen. And it also further compounds the fact that it’s really not a money issue at the end of the day. It’s gross mismanagement, and just not having enough people—staffers—to do the work, which is something that the federal monitor that Secretary Carson has assigned is going to change.
Mr. Jekielek: So you actually did experience some things which weren’t all that terribly pleasant, despite all this extra work that was done to make things good for you.
Ms. Patton: I now know, for example, what it’s like to shower in a mold-infested bathroom, in tepid, discolored water that’s lukewarm, if not cold. I know what it’s like to try to fall asleep in an apartment where I know that the egress to escape in the event of a fire is blocked. In fact, we suffered a great tragedy, not too long ago at NYCHA. A family of six was lost—four of them children. And, you know, I would never say “I told you so,” but when I was living in public housing for a month, the second or third night I was there, I said to my host family: “You know, I don’t mean to frighten you, but I can’t help but notice that you have to go through your kitchen to leave if there were a fire in your kitchen, which is where most fires start in households. You would not be able to leave, and the bedrooms are down the hall. Does that ever cross your mind for you and your children?”
The host told me: “Every single night, I lay in bed wondering if that’s going to happen. Sometimes, I even get up and I double-check things to make sure that they’re off, or triple-check in case one of the kids woke up and cooked something in the middle of the night.” It’s certainly something that runs through her head every day.
And if I hadn’t lived and stayed in public housing, just visiting for an hour or two, even if I went every day, I would not have realized something as significant as that unless I was laying in that apartment trying to go to sleep, knowing that’s a real fear of mine. So, you know, that’s an experience that I was able to glean that I would not have gotten otherwise.
Obviously, also just the fact that your safety—I was constantly looking over my shoulder—I moved in without any security. And, ironically, the residents kind of became my pseudo-bodyguards, because they were very protective of me. They really took me in as one of their own. It was quite a humbling experience. I had to earn that, you know? I always say, “Don’t judge me now. Judge me six to eight months from now, when change is actually being done on the ground.” And they respected that. They appreciated that sort of candor. I wasn’t there like a politician trying to get votes. I was there actually trying to effectuate change, and change is not going to happen overnight, but it’s going to happen. And that’s what I made sure to tell them.
Mr. Jekielek: So you’ve had some time now to reflect on this experience that you had, and you inherited a lot of—as you said—mismanagement that has led to the current situation. Has that experience led to any new policy ideas that you’ve been discussing with the secretary?
Ms. Patton: Of course. HUD provides the funding for the New York City Housing Authority, and the mayor is responsible for its daily operation and hiring. It reminded me of an experience that I had at the Trump Organization, where I worked for 10 years prior to this.
The Trump family acquired a winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, a couple of years back, owned by the Kluge family. When we were going through a lot of outstanding invoices, because they acquired it through a bankruptcy, we came across an invoice from Lowe’s. The previous owner had rented a power washer for three years instead of buying one. Now, your average power washer is about $500; you can even get them for $150. She was renting one for about $150 a day. By the time we returned it and actually paid the bill, it was almost $33,000.
And what I like to say is that NYCHA is an amalgamation of power washers. They’re just not using the money the right way. They are renting boilers for 10 to 12 years instead of just buying them. They are storing brand new equipment and doors in floody basements that then they have to discard, because they grow mold and they’re water-damaged. It’s just incompetence at the utmost level. And that’s really sort of the culture that we have to change.
And that’s why Secretary Carson has appointed, for the first time in history at NYCHA, a federal monitor that has the authority to actually restructure NYCHA’s organizational charts, and make sure that folks, you know, if their jobs are relevant, they stay. If they’re not relevant, he can eliminate those positions, and that’s what he’s doing.
He’s also going through with a fine-toothed comb with his team of forensic accountants to find out where the $30 million per week that this administration gives NYCHA is going, because it’s definitely not going to repairs. I could be the first to confirm that. It’s really quite disgusting that taxpayer money is being misappropriated. A lot of it is going to union overtime: $400 million the mayor has spent on union overtime wages—not salary, just strictly overtime.
And it would be one thing if he said to me, “Lynne, we’ve spent $400 million on overtime, but look at everything we’ve actually repaired and accomplished.” Then I might say, “You know what, it’s still a lot of money, but at least the residents are living in better homes.” But when you spend $400 million and literally have nothing to show for it—you still have huge rats … tons of mold … lead paint that you falsified inspecting … broken elevators, where the elderly are sleeping in the lobby because they can’t climb 17 flights of steps. You have heat and hot water going off in record numbers. Last year, more than 80 percent of NYCHA residents lost heat or hot water at some point during the winter. And, again, that’s like the city of Miami losing air conditioning—80 percent of the city of Miami—it’s unprecedented and unacceptable. This is the United States of America, and more importantly, it’s New York City, which I, personally, consider the greatest city in the world.
Mr. Jekielek: As for appointing a federal monitor, some people might say: “Well, that seems like an example of gross federal overreach. Shouldn’t these people be able to figure things out locally?”
Ms. Patton: You would think so and we’ve given them that opportunity, and over the past decade, they have failed miserably. You know, the situation has gotten exponentially worse, and even since I’ve been here, it’s gotten worse. Meaning we have taken sort of a back seat and sat back and watched and tried to guide NYCHA as best as possible, but that’s just not working. And anybody—I was actually just saying to an elected official today—anybody on the ground in New York knows that NYCHA is completely incapable of turning itself around.
Mr. Jekielek: Secretary Carson, when I spoke with him some months ago, was talking about how with HUD policies today, the goal is basically to empower people themselves, to basically lift themselves up, potentially even out of needing to have of housing and so forth. So what kind of policies are being implemented now like this?
Ms. Patton: It’s unfortunate because I think public housing started off with good intentions, but ultimately what it ended up doing was siloing poverty and siloing opportunity away from real opportunity. So what you have now are people who are living in public housing for decades, sometimes multigenerational. And that’s not what its original purpose was. So this administration is really focusing on paths to self-sufficiency. Secretary Carson believes that it’s our responsibility not just to write a check, but to empower people with that money. So we are focusing on programs such as Jobs Plus, which is available at nine different NYCHA properties, where they’re helping out with resume-building, skill-set training, and things like that.
We have family self-sufficiency, which allows folks to save money without being penalized. You pay 30 percent of your income for rent if you’re a public housing resident. And we are making sure that if you maybe braid hair … or drive an Uber on the side and make more money, that you’re not being penalized if you save that. If you put that away instead of spending it, we will make sure we don’t count that savings against your actual monthly rent. So these are things that folks are taking advantage of and we’re really excited.
Mr. Jekielek: So let’s switch gears a little bit. There’s the fairly new, I think, HUD initiative that involves homeowners being able to leverage opportunity zones. I’m wondering if you could speak about that?
Ms. Patton: Oh, yes, opportunity zones. Well, you know, the Tax [Cuts] and Jobs Act of 2017, which was the Trump tax bill, ended up sort of describing a new initiative that really was the brainchild of [South Carolina] Sen. Tim Scott and also Steve Mnuchin of the Department of Treasury, in which investors are being given tax breaks to put money back into these communities. And the opportunity zones are identified through census tracts, where I think it’s 20 percent poverty level or more. And they’re all over New York and New Jersey; there’s not one municipality in New Jersey without one, there’s not one NYCHA borough without one. So we’re really excited, and we’re having summits all across the country right now, in conjunction with the White House, to educate people on how to take advantage of these opportunities. So folks can take the tax breaks and incentives that they get from investing back into their communities.
Mr. Jekielek: And how do they access that?
Ms. Patton: We’re in the process of creating funders groups right now, which will help funnel money into the neighborhoods and opportunity zones. And also, obviously, through developers, through architects, through a lot of corporate America. One of the reasons why Trump even gave this tax break is so that companies could invest back into their employees, back into their communities. And we saw that that’s what was happening. Folks were getting bonus checks for the first time, they were getting raises for the first time. Companies were expanding for the first time. And we want them to expand back into these communities. So there are several websites that will provide lists of funders and folks that can help steer investors on the right track.
Mr. Jekielek: OK, great. We can put those up right now.
Ms. Patton: Exactly. Tweet them out.
Mr. Jekielek: When I was speaking with Secretary Carson a while back, one of the things he was talking about with me was that President Trump has been experiencing unprecedented attacks, or at least unprecedented in recent history, against his person, against his policies, against his families, and so forth. And Secretary Carson said, “He didn’t need this.” And as we were talking, it struck me that Secretary Carson himself is in the same boat.
Ms. Patton: He is. In fact, he had just purchased, I think, a new house in Palm Beach. He was getting ready to retire, play some golf, and the president came calling, asking if Dr. Ben Carson would serve his country. And, you know, it’s funny because I was saying the same thing to somebody else the other day. Here’s a guy—and it’s so completely tragic—here’s a doctor who has separated literally dozens of conjoined twins around the country … around the world. He has earned probably the greatest reputation of being one of the most renowned neurosurgeons on the entire globe. And now, when he Googles his name, up pops an article about a $31,000 dining room table. And it’s a shame because, what’s going to end up happening is that folks like Dr. Carson, folks who are successful in an industry or business or some sort of trade, are not going to become public servants.
Where is the incentive? You’re going to be bashed incessantly. You’re going to be scrutinized relentlessly. You can even be threatened physically, like many conservatives have been in this administration, including myself.
Mr. Jekielek: Exactly. So you’re also in the same boat. You spent 10 years in the Trump Organization, you’re incredibly successful by all accounts. How is it that you ended up in this role?
Ms. Patton: Unlike a lot of my counterparts, who have been interested in politics their entire lives or wanted to serve their country through a housing agency, I just happened to be working at a company where my boss ran for president and actually won. So here I am. One of the things that happened shortly after he won, you might remember he went to the 21 Club here in New York for dinner with his family, and the next day, I got a text from Eric Trump and it said, “You didn’t tell me my father wanted to take you to Washington, D.C.” And I [said], “He does? I didn’t know.” So that was something that was really quite an honor. You know, when the president of the United States or president-elect asks you to serve your country, how do you say no to that? So originally, I was gonna go work in the White House with him, but I felt that I had personally made some promises to the American people on the campaign trail with him, particularly those in rural and minority or urban areas.
And so I felt that I could do him a greater service by being someplace he wasn’t, which was an agency. And, of course, I was there at the Trump Tower, when he reached out to Ben Carson and asked if he would serve his country. And so it was an honor—my family has known the Carson family for quite some time, my father is also a doctor. So it was an honor to be able to go work for who I consider to be my second-favorite person in Washington: Dr. Ben Carson. And so that’s what I did. I went and worked at HUD, and then of course, I was with him for eight months in D.C., and when the opportunity presented itself to basically come back home and serve my community, and the neighborhoods that I know best, I seized the moment.
Mr. Jekielek: In February, you went to Congress to testify at the same time that Michael Cohen was testifying.
Ms. Patton: Well, I want to clarify. I was never planning to testify. My mere presence was supposed to serve as a reminder to Cohen that integrity and honesty still matter in this country. And he knows that I know the truth, and he knows that I know he wasn’t telling it.
Mr. Jekielek: You were accused of being the token person of color or something of this nature. But what do you make of this?
Ms. Patton: Well, it’s sad, because clearly what that represents is first of all, evidently, calling out racism is the new racism. Right? Because a lot of people thought that that was a racist comment for the congresswoman from Michigan to say. But that aside, I think the reason why I was so viciously attacked is because I don’t represent what the expectation of a black female is supposed to be in terms of mindset and voting record. And also, I was there, God forbid, with my own opinion about a man who I’ve known for 10 years. And, also, I’ve known Cohen for 15 [years], even longer. I was there based on my personal experience. I was never there to represent my entire race. I was there to represent one person, who is the president of the United States of America and who I know just as well as Cohen.
So my question to the congresswoman from Michigan was: How is it that you take the opinion and statements of a criminally convicted, self-confessed, white male perjurer over that of a fellow minority female who rose through the ranks of the Trump Organization from assistant to vice president, then spoke at the Republican National Convention in front of 24 million people, and is now the highest-ranking African-American female in the Trump administration? To me, that’s much more racist than being called a token. You know, the fact that she didn’t think I had my own opinion about this man and what he was saying. I think anyone of us in this room could tell you it doesn’t take 15 years to figure out somebody is a racist, unless you’re making that up. I think we all know folks in our families, our circles, our jobs who have said inappropriate things, and we know who they are pretty quickly. So for Cohen to say that Trump is a racist, it’s just not true. He wouldn’t have worked for him as long as he did if he were. I would not have worked for him, if he were. Again, I don’t need this job. I don’t need the money. I’m here because I’m serving my country under a man who has served me very well.
I’m the type of person who judges folks by their actions, more so than their words. And the Trump family and the president have really stood by me on multiple occasions on a personal and professional level. They gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. They recognized my work when I did it, again, going from, literally, a personal assistant to a vice president. They put me in charge of all of their philanthropy, determining which altruistic causes deserved attention. It was an honor to run Eric Trump’s charity for seven years of that time, where we gave almost $16 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee—things that you just don’t read about in the paper.
I was just looking at a stat the other day. In 2014, the Eric Trump Foundation raised $2 million, and we gave almost 90 percent of that to charity. That same year, the Clinton Foundation raised $91 million and ended up giving only 5 percent to charity. Why is that not a headline? Those are the types of things that really get my goat, especially when you know how giving this family is.
Again, you said it yourself, the president did not need to do this. I can tell you, as a fact, his plane is nicer. You know, as much as I respect Air Force One, some folks might argue that—I know Howard Stern has said it—[Trump’s jet] is nicer. This guy could have just sat back and flown around and done all the same things that he’s basically doing now, but without the heartache and stress. But what really touched me so much—and sometimes I get emotional even just thinking about it—is his love for this country is really what drove him to give all that up. To be a part of that is something that is the greatest honor of my life. So how do I not give it up? How does the secretary not give it up themselves, when you see somebody so selfless?
And it’s particularly hard when you see and you know, from a personal perspective, the type of vitriol and hate mail and threats that they get on a daily basis, you know? From the moment my boss came down the escalator, I’ve been called coon, Uncle Tom, house negro, sheboon—words that I had to like actually look up because I’ve never heard them before. And the tragedy of it all is it’s primarily coming from folks of my own race.
The tragedy of being a minority conservative is something that a lot of people don’t really recognize. Not only do we have the daily hurdles of any minority and, of course, the daily hurdles of any female, but you also have the additional albatross of being conservative, and that sometimes can be a detriment. And you’ve seen it firsthand, by the way I was received at that hearing. If I had been a white female who happened to work for the Trump Organization for over 10 years, and know both Cohen and the president equally, they would never have questioned my presence there. They would have said, “Here’s the girl who’s standing here, and her mere presence symbolizes that somebody is here to push back.”
And I wasn’t there to just push back against the racist narrative. I was there to push back against every single narrative that basically Cohen was raising, because I knew when he was lying. Cohen and I were inseparable. We went to lunch almost every day. I was in his office all the time. He was down on my floor constantly. We traveled together. We went to dinner together. I know his family. I know his wife. I know his kids. I talked to him even after his offices were raided, even after his home was raided. I talked to his daughter after that happened. It was extremely traumatic. I was close to them. When he started talking about some of the things during the testimony, about not wanting to ever work for this administration, never wanting to have gone to the White House, I was texting folks letting them know that those were just boldfaced lies and that we had evidence of that, and I personally did as well.
So my presence there was to really let Michael know, again, that truth and integrity matter and that I’m going to look you in the eyes as you lie to the American people, and I’m going to call you out on it and make sure that these congressmen call you out on it, too.
Mr. Jekielek: So you think, in his case, he just was afraid of the jail time? He wanted to minimize that?
Ms. Patton: Without a doubt. And also I actually posted something on my Instagram, which later was confirmed by the media, that they threatened to jail his family, his wife in particular. And I knew that, because he had told me so. The media ignored my post and chose to believe, again, a self-convicted perjurer instead. When folks threaten you, you might be able to hold it together and kind of be tough, but when they start threatening your family or your in-laws or … it makes it all the more difficult. And when you start threatening family members and things like that.
I want to remind everybody watching this that Cohen is not in jail for anything the president of the United States or the campaign did. He is in jail because he obtained a personal loan by falsifying the value of his taxi medallions. He is in jail because he misappropriated funds to pay off Stormy Daniels from a home loan, which is considered bank fraud. And he is in jail because he didn’t pay his taxes personally. So, no different than Paul Manafort. These folks are in jail for crimes that had nothing to do with the president of the United States or the campaign, and, in fact, I think the Mueller report said the exact opposite.
But you know what, I welcome these investigations, as sick as it sounds, because the American people want to move on, and while Democrats are asking for tax returns and all kinds of additional investigations, we’ll be addressing student-loan reform. We’ll be addressing prison reform. We’ll be addressing ways to fix the infrastructure of this country. We’ll continue to put numbers on the board that drop the unemployment rate and raise the GDP. You tell me which is more effective and helpful for this country.
Mr. Jekielek: So, Lynne, you’re obviously very deeply committed to this work. Thank you for being so open about that. But death threats? How do you deal with that?
Ms. Patton: Well, you know, I certainly … look, who am I? I certainly don’t get them in the numbers that this family has gotten them. In fact, I was with Eric when Lara called and said she had just opened up an envelope where white powder spilled all over her body and all over their dog and it was quite an experience that I would never forget. Who do these people think they are, that you would have that much hatred and vitriol for somebody whose ideals you don’t agree with? It just seems so extreme and unbalanced. And, of course, we know that’s exactly what it is.
What’s sad is when the media gives sort of credence to this type of behavior. And, look, there are bad apples on both sides of the aisle. I’ll be the first to admit that, and none of us condone any sort of violence or threats in any way, shape, or form. But as soon as I spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, my life changed, and I would like to say for the better, but it also changed for the worse. [Police in] the town where I live in Connecticut had to do more frequent drive-bys at my parents’ house just because they were concerned. There were threats coming to my apartment, because folks figured out where I lived. Even when I stayed in NYCHA, while I was away, my boyfriend was getting threats and … hate mail at our apartment in Westchester because the media published where I lived.
It’s interesting because they went through great pains not to publish where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lives. They basically described her building in D.C., but they never said the name of the building or the address. But, for me, it was like, “Oh, Lynne lives in …” And, obviously, it’s easy to find. And it’s certainly been an issue of safety for me.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned earlier the media gives credence to “this” sort of behavior. Can you explain what you meant by that exactly?
Ms. Patton: I think that when folks threaten certain people in the Trump family, the media … it’s not covered as much. Whereas, if there is a threat against maybe a Democratic congressman, that gets wall-to-wall coverage, for example. I can try to think of a specific example right now—
Mr. Jekielek: You feel it makes people feel like they can do this because they won’t get called on it as easily.
Ms. Patton: Absolutely. It emboldens them because they don’t get called out on it.
Case in point, the Colorado shooter, from two weeks ago, hates Trump all over their social media. Trump this, Trump that, all bad stuff. I read that in one place since the tragedy. Of course, the tragedy is a greater issue, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if somebody had shot up the school and had anti-Joe Biden stuff all over their Facebook, we’d be seeing a lot more in the media. So there’s this disconnect and I would say hypocrisy with respect to how threats are treated by … Look, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee [Sanders] get threatened and assaulted in public all the time. We saw Sarah get kicked out of a restaurant. We’ve seen Kellyanne Conway get assaulted physically in front of her children. Nothing happened. If that happened to Hillary Clinton or Ocasio-Cortez, I think we would be seeing a lot greater backlash. And those are just facts. It’s sad, but that’s where we are in society right now.
Mr. Jekielek: In your mind, how do we chart a course to become better here?
Ms. Patton: I think the course that this president is charting is to focus on the issues that matter to the American people, which [are] infrastructure, health care, student loan reform, prison reform, opportunity zones. His focus [is] veterans’ rights and access. He’s doing a lot of things that other presidents have only talked about doing. Of course, what we were talking about earlier—equal trade with foreign countries, taking us out of the Paris accord agreement, and taking us out of demanding equal contributions in NATO. And he’s getting results. The Mexico-Canada Agreement, things that are are making life better for Americans as opposed to worse. These are things that, the president came down that escalator and said “America first,” and he meant it. And I think that when it comes to homelessness, housing, benefits … Medicare, Medicaid—these are things that need to go to Americans first, veterans first, people who have served our country first. And that’s what he’s focusing on, not just for Americans, but also for the due diligence of our taxpayers. That’s where they would want their money to go.
Mr. Jekielek: So I saw you in another interview recently talk about the situation of aid in Puerto Rico. It looked like you were quite passionate about that.
Ms. Patton: Well, you know, Puerto Rico used to be in Region 2. It was New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. But they actually moved it … to Region 4 about 14 years ago. So I’ve never had the benefit of serving the Puerto Rican community, but one of the things that frustrates me so much is you see all of the backlash about the aid that’s been getting there, or the lack of it. Secretary Carson and President Trump signed the largest disaster bill in federal history for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands—over $20 billion. We’ve delivered half of that money already.
One of the things that folks are watching and reading the newspaper or clicking the click-bait headlines that are Puerto Rico not getting federal funding. What a lot of folks who click that bait don’t realize is there’s something called an Action Plan Amendment that every disaster region must submit in order to get the funding that has been earmarked for them. So, for example, Texas submitted it; Florida submitted it. Puerto Rico has only submitted an Action Plan Amendment for the amount of money we have given them. We cannot give them more than what they’ve submitted a plan for because, again, one of the things that we’re learning is that there is a lot of money left over from Ike that Puerto Rico hasn’t spent.
We want to make sure that the money is going to the right places on the ground, that we don’t see the kind of deception or fraud that happened with Hurricane Katrina. So, by law, the territory of Puerto Rico has to fill this plan out. And if it’s not filled out, then they don’t get the money. And they’ve filled out, I think, an Action Plan Amendment for at least $8 billion, and we’ve given that to them. So there is a disconnect in what’s being reported in the news, and what’s factual. And we’re just rolling that money out to them, staggering it, because OMB (Office of Management and Budget) wants to make sure that it’s actually going to the right people.
Whenever there’s a disaster, unfortunately, a lot of folks swoop in and take advantage of what they know is going to be tons of federal money and contracts. And we just can’t have that happen to the Puerto Rican people. We can’t afford to not repair that island back to its original beauty. And we want to make sure that the money being earmarked by the American taxpayers is doing exactly that.
Mr. Jekielek: So, Lynne, any final words you want to share?
Ms. Patton: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. And, you know, I want folks to be able to give this president a chance. I get a lot of times, you’re a black female. How on earth do you reconcile working for this man?
He’s never said those things. And what I would want people to leave with is that this administration has created an urban council that’s now going to invest over $100 billion through opportunity zones into urban and rural communities. This administration has given maybe $40 million more to historically black colleges and universities than the Obama administration. This administration has also passed the single most progressive prison-reform bill in the last three decades. And those aren’t my words. Van Jones said that. We are changing the lives and future of minority and rural Americans every day, and that’s something that I’m very proud to be a part of.
Mr. Jekielek: I just want to clarify one thing you said. “He never said those words,” or “he never said that”—what were you referring to specifically?
Ms. Patton: Well, I’m specifically referring to you know the typical things that folks bring up when they bring up racism and my boss. One of those is Charlottesville—you know the argument that he said there are good people—
Mr. Jekielek: On both sides, “fine people on both sides.”
Ms. Patton: Right, “fine people on both sides.” Even CNN, I think, did a recent report admitting that that phrase has been twisted over the years and manifested into its own sort of fake news, shall I say. What [Trump] said was that the original procurers of that permit to protest were historians, some of them professors at UVA, who did not want the removal of Confederate statues, period. Not because they worship Confederate soldiers or thought that they were on the right side of history, but because they knew that you know those who erase history are doomed to repeat it, and these are just historic monuments that need to be respected as such, that this world is getting too [politically correct].
When he said that there were fine people, what he clearly meant—and he said it a million times—is the folks who had originated that protest. It wasn’t until later that, obviously, these neo-Nazis came marching down with their tiki torches and ruined the entire affair. But, you know, and Trump has denounced those folks many, many times, repeatedly.
I like to make sure that folks understand that you need the entire context when you judge someone. And, again, I’ve had the benefit of having his entire context for 10 years. And, look, racists just don’t raise children like Ivanka, Don, Eric, Barron, and Tiffany. They just don’t. They are some of the most giving, altruistic people I’ve ever met. Their spouses are the same way. If their father were racist, that would have shown its ugly head at some point, whether it be in a backroom joke or some sort of slip-up.
I’ve been with them nonstop for almost a decade now, and I’ve never heard anything like that come out of their mouths. You’re taught racism, you learn it. And they have never been exposed to that sort of environment and never will be.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.