The first real estate lawyer who didn’t work with the feds has sued Trump, his campaign, and the Department of Homeland Security.
By the end of the 2016 campaign, a string of lawyers from around the country had joined forces with Trump to create the “Real Estate and Taxation Lawyer Initiative,” which sought to combat the “dramatic increase in the use of foreign workers in the United States.”
The group worked closely with the Trump campaign and Trump’s political operatives, and it included a slew of lawyers, including several who worked for the Trump Organization, including former Trump campaign adviser George Gigicos, and former Trump political strategist Stuart Jolly.
The group’s members included several former Trump aides, including lawyer Rob Goldstone and the infamous British spy Christopher Steele.
A spokesperson for the group told Mother Jones that the group was formed “in the spirit of cooperation between the President and Congress to address a very real and growing problem” with foreign workers.
But the group’s mission seemed to stretch beyond the confines of Washington, as it also included the work of a few other lawyers who had previously worked in the Obama administration, including Steven Rhodes, a senior counsel at the Office of Management and Budget; and Jonathan Littman, who was then the deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for international affairs.
On January 3, 2017, Rhodes told Mother Smith that he had hired the “real estate attorney” team to work with his clients to help “determine the best ways to reduce the potential for exploitation.”
According to the lawsuit, the group hired Rhodes as an “associate” and then as an employee.
The lawsuit alleged that Rhodes was “forced to perform services that would be extremely valuable to his client, the Trump Organisation, and to the federal government.”
In February of 2017, after Trump’s inauguration, the Real Estate and Taxes Lawyer initiative was disbanded, according to the complaint.
But a spokesperson for Rhodes told Fox News that Rhodes had been removed from his position, and Rhodes had no involvement in the group.
In a statement to Mother Jones, the office of Rep. Steve Cohen, a New York Democrat, said that he did not recall any conversations with Rhodes in the spring of 2017.
Cohen did not respond to requests for comment.
In the complaint, the “residential real estate law attorney” claim is a reference to the idea that the Trump team, while technically still working for the president, is still working with the government.
The government and Trump have repeatedly denied any involvement in any of their campaign activities, or any coordination between their campaign and the White House.
In his January 3 statement to the New York Times, Trump said that his team did not “have any involvement whatsoever with the Residential Real Estate Lawyer Institute.”
But in the complaint filed by the Trump Campaign on March 2, 2017—the day after he won the presidency—the Trump campaign said that “an associate” of the Residential real estate attorney team had “engaged in work for the Presidential Campaign.”
Trump’s campaign said in a statement that the “presidential campaign did not engage in any such work.”
“The Residential Real estate law firm is a private, non-partisan firm,” the statement read.
“The firm does not do any political work, and has never been involved in any political campaigns.”