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

By: Michael Kranish and Robert O'Harrow Jr.

January 23, 2016


In October 1973, the Justice Department filed a civil rights case that accused the Trump firm, whose complexes contained 14,000 apartments, of violating 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 demonstrated 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 renting apartments to welfare recipients of any color but never discriminated based on race.

The two sides eventually came to terms. On June 10, 1975, they signed an agreement prohibiting the Trumps from “discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or priveleges of sale or rental of a dwelling.” The Trumps were ordered to “thoroughly acquaint themselves personally on a detailed basis” with the Fair Housing Act.

The agreement also required the Trumps to place ads informing minorities they had an equal opportunity to seek housing at their properties.

The decree makes clear the Trumps did not view the agreement as a surrender, saying the settlement was “in no way an admission” of a violation.

The Justice Department claimed victory, calling the decree “one of the most far-reaching ever negotiated.”

Newspaper headlines echoed that view. “Minorities win housing suit,” said the New York Amsterdam News, which told readers that “qualified Blacks and Puerto Ricans now have the opportunity to rent apartments owned by Trump Management.”