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10 THE GREENSBORO TIMES Legal Beat


Inside the government’s racial bias case against Trump, and how he fought it


BY MICHAEL KRANISH AND ROBERT O’HARROW JR.


NEW YORK — When a black woman asked to rent an apartment in a Brooklyn complex managed by Donald Trump’s real estate company, she said she was told that nothing was available. A short time later, a white woman who made the same request was invited to choose between two available apartments.


The two would-be renters on that July 1972 day were actually undercover


“testers” for a government-sanctioned investigation to determine whether Trump Management Inc. discriminated against minorities seeking housing at properties across Brooklyn and Queens.1


Federal investigators also gathered evidence. Trump employees had secret-


ly marked the applications of minorities with codes, such as “No. 9” and “C” for “colored,” according to government interview accounts filed in federal court. The employees allegedly directed blacks and Puerto Ricans away from buildings with mostly white tenants, and steered them toward properties that had many minori- ties, the government filings alleged.


In October 1973, the Justice Department filed a civil rights case that ac-


cused the Trump firm, whose complexes contained 14,000 apartments, of violat- ing the Fair Housing Act of 1968.


The case, one of the biggest federal housing discrimination suits to be


brought during that time, put a spotlight on the family empire led by its 27-year- old president, Donald Trump, and his father, Fred Trump, the chairman, who had begun building houses and apartments in the 1930s. The younger Trump demon- strated the brash, combative style that would make him famous, holding forth at a news conference in a Manhattan hotel to decry the government’s arguments as “such outrageous lies.” He would also say that the company wanted to avoid rent- ing apartments to welfare recipients of any color but never discriminated based on race.


The Trumps retained Roy Cohn, a defense attorney who two decades ear- lier had been a top aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) during his infamous effort to root out communists in government. Cohn portrayed the Trumps as the


Donald Trump and his father, Fred, in 1973 at Trump Village, Fred’s last project, in Queens. Donald was an apprentice to his father at the time. (Barton Silverman/The New York Times/Redux)


victims and counter-sued the government, demanding it pay them $100 million for falsely accusing them of discrimination.


For Trump, whose statements as a presidential candidate about Mexican


immigrants, women and Muslims have drawn charges of racism and sexism, his role as a defendant in a discrimination case put him near the center of a civil rights-era struggle over society’s changing views about race and culture. The 20-month legal battle marked the first time Trump became a regular presence on newspaper front pages. It served as an early look at the hardball tactics he has


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