WASHINGTON – Lynne Patton has become one of the most influential African-American political figures of the Trump administration. It's the color of his skin and his relationship with President Trump that led to his appearance at the testimony of Michael D. Cohen at Congress on Wednesday.
Prior to HUD, Ms. Patton was an event organizer in New York working for the Trump Organization and the Eric Trump Foundation. Anticipating Mr. Cohen's accusation that President Trump was a racist, Republican Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina invited Ms. Patton to appear as a rebuttal to the prosecution.
"You made some very deprecating remarks about the president that Ms. Patton does not agree with," said Mr. Meadows after Mr. Cohen treated his former boss as a racist and noted, among other things: "He said people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.
While 46-year-old Patton stood silently behind him, Mr. Meadows argued that Ms. Patton's loyalty to Mr. Trump proved that this could not be true.
"I asked Lynne to come today, as an individual, to provide clarification," said Mr. Meadows. "She says that as a girl born in Birmingham, Alabama, it was impossible for her to work for a racist person."
Mr. Meadows asked that "all of Ms. Patton's statement be on the record," but Ms. Patton never opened her mouth. And shortly after Mr. Meadows called her to stand behind him, she left the room. But the brief appearance sparked a heated exchange on the breed later during the hearing.
Michigan Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib has described it as "insensitive" and possibly racist "to use a black woman as an accessory".
"As a personality of the committee, that's how I felt at the time, and I wanted to express that," she said in the afternoon session of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee. the reform of the House, with Mr. Cohen. "I say that's in itself a racist act."
Mr. Meadows retorted, noting that his own "nieces and nephews are people of color". Appealing to Elijah E. Cummings, Chair of the Committee, Mr. Meadows emphasized that "even going in that direction is a mistake".
Mr. Cummings, an African-American Democrat from Maryland, defended Mr. Meadows, calling him "one of my best friends."
Ms. Tlaib then stated that she did not intend to call him a racist. "I apologize if that sounds like that," she said. "I told someone in general. And as everyone knows in this chamber, I am rather direct. "
But the idea that Mrs. Patton's mere presence and loyalty to the Trump family would somehow refute the allegation that the president might be racist was widely and immediately criticized by Democrats, both inside and out. outside the room.
The waterfall "shows how ignorant the Republicans are about running," Karine Jean-Pierre, senior advisor of the progressive political group MoveOn.org, wrote on Twitter. "It's also offensive and beyond the pale."
Ms. Patton stated that she had received an invitation from Mr. Meadows to appear at the hearing after seeing a photo on her Instagram account that she published on Tuesday. Under a picture of her smiling with Mr. Cohen at Trump Grill, she described Mr. Cohen as one of his best friends for over a decade.
"I am sad that Michael has – once again on the world stage – brought unfounded accusations, especially of fanaticism and racism, against a man who alone helped to raise five of the most impartial and open children. mind that I have never encountered. never known, "she wrote.
Patton said the Wednesday's statement to the House committee was identical to a 387-word caption on her Instagram photo.
Mrs. Patton, who spoke at the Republican National Convention in 2016, took on significance only in the orbit of Trump after a telling book by Omarosa Manigault Newman, another senior African-American official who has defended Mr. Trump for years.
In a memoir that she published after being Licensed from the White House in December 2017, Ms. Manigault Newman also accused Mr. Trump of being racist. And in the recordings she published while promoting the book, Ms. Manigault Newman published a recorded discussion that she had with Ms. Patton about whether Mr. Trump had ever used the book. N-word. On the tape, they discuss the possibility that Mr. Trump used the word in a recorded conversation, but it is not clear to them if he did it.
Since then, Ms. Patton, who is now HUD Regional Director in New York and recently attracted attention for spending a month in social housing in the city, has been keen to demonstrate her loyalty to the Trump family.
But Ms. Manigault Newman, who was watching Mr. Cohen's testimony at home, said in an interview that his former colleague was simply being used.
"Bringing Lynne to this hearing was just for the show," she said. Referring to Trump's usual practice of having staff members sign non-disclosure agreements, she said, "Everyone knows that it is subject to several confidentiality agreements. -Newman added that she agreed with Mr. Trump's categorization of Mr. Trump as being racist.
Ms. Patton denies having a confidentiality agreement.
"You do not need an NDA when you're just telling the truth," she said.