It started with an unexpected call last week from Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump associate who oversees federal housing programs in New York.
Patton told a leader of a tenants’ group at the New York City Housing Authority, the nation’s largest, that she was interested in speaking with residents about conditions in the authority’s buildings, which had long been in poor repair.
Four tenants soon assembled in front of a video camera and were interviewed for more than four hours by Patton. Three of the tenants were never told that their interviews would be edited into a two-minute video clip that would air prominently Thursday night at the Republican National Convention and be used to bash Mayor Bill de Blasio, the three tenants said in interviews Friday.
“I am not a Trump supporter,” said one of the tenants, Claudia Perez. “I am not a supporter of his racist policies on immigration. I am a first-generation Honduran. It was my people he was sending back.”
The episode represents another stark example of how President Donald Trump has deployed government resources to further his political ambitions. Patton is head of the New York office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and under the Hatch Act is barred from using her government position to engage in political activities.
Throughout the convention, Trump shattered the traditional boundaries between government and politics, and the video was aired on a night when the campaign took over the South Lawn of the White House, the first time that a major political convention had occurred there.
The four tenants in the public housing video were interviewed Friday by The New York Times. Three said they opposed Trump and were misled about the video. The fourth, reached late Friday, said she was a Trump backer and knew the purpose of the video.
In the video, the tenants raised concerns about conditions in the housing authority’s buildings, praised Trump’s record on public housing and attacked de Blasio’s. Perez, one of the tenants, said in an interview Friday afternoon that she stood by her criticism of the authority but was furious about being tricked into appearing in a video shown at the RNC.