Her cameo appearance at the Michael Cohen hearing — a bit of stagecraft intended to dispel accusations of racism against President Trump — provoked an instant backlash from black politicians and the public.
But Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump family aide turned federal housing bureaucrat, has long reveled in the limelight and has asked permission to star in a reality-TV show while serving as a HUD official.
In an Oct. 18, 2018, memo to officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Patton sought ethical and legal guidance on potentially participating in a “docuseries” about black Republicans, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Among the 10 questions Patton asked:
Would HUD object to her attending events or non-HUD-related meetings at the White House if she took a two-month unpaid leave of absence for filming?
Would she be allowed to refer to herself as a current member of the Trump administration?
Would she be permitted to attend Trump 2020 campaign rallies? And, if so, who would be allowed to cover her travel expenses?
And would she be permitted to have dinner with HUD Secretary Ben Carson or his family during their personal time? What about the Trump family? Or other high-ranking officials such as Kellyanne Conway?
The show, by the producers of “The Real Housewives of Potomac” and “Shahs of Sunset,” would center on a group of powerful black women such as Patton, Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson and conservative commentator Candace Owens.
“We would like to follow their day-to-day, capturing who they are at home, at work, and above all, understanding their political views and their strong sisterhood,” read a pitch from Truly Original, the New York-based production company specializing in unscripted content.
Patton told The Post that the show’s concept had piqued her interest because producers had compared it to Showtime’s “The Circus,” a documentary series about Trump-era politics — “not as a table-flipping reality show.”
“Black Republicans are not an anomaly. Not only do we suffer the same societal hurdles that face any black man or black woman every single day, we also have the additional albatross of being conservative,” Patton said. “Nothing proves this point more than the partisan reaction to my committee appearance this week. God forbid a black Republican is in the room based upon her own merit and can think for herself. But it’s a scarlet letter I wear with pride.”
Leslie Oren, spokeswoman for Truly Original, said the show is being conceived as a “serious” documentary series. It is still in development and has yet to be pitched.
“It’s a deep look into a faction of African Americans who happen to be Republican — their point of view and why they chose to take a position that is not typically the majority position politically,” Oren said.
Patton noted in her memo to HUD officials that Truly Original Productions initially approached her in December 2016, before her federal employment, to play a primary role in a prime-time series for Netflix, HBO, Bravo, Hulu or Lifetime.
“In the interest of public service to the President of the United States, I declined,” Patton wrote in the memo.
The production company approached her again in 2018, when she floated the reality-show concept to HUD officials.
Patton’s request was denied on ethical grounds, according to two people at HUD familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Patton disputed that characterization, saying agency officials told her the decision was hers to make after outlining strict parameters limiting how much money she could earn.
She said HUD also would not allow her to be filmed at work, because it could violate equal-airtime rules surrounding campaigns since Trump had already declared his 2020 candidacy.
In her memo, Patton asked whether she would continue to be subject to government regulations if she took an unpaid leave of absence. She even proposed temporarily resigning her HUD post when filming was expected to begin in the summer of 2019 and asked whether she could legally be rehired after two months.
The agency told her that the scenarios she presented would not work.
Patton said HUD officials had previously informed her in a meeting that federal employees are allowed to make a secondary income as long as it does not exceed $28,000 a year and is not in an industry related to their government job.
Given that she was told by industry insiders that she could command as much as $40,000 per episode in the inaugural eight-episode season, she decided not to pursue the opportunity while at HUD.
“I love my job. My sole priority are the residents of New York and New Jersey, especially the residents of [the New York City Housing Authority]," Patton said. “This is not about money. I could make 10 times the amount writing a book about a fraction of what I know. This is about me honoring my commitment to the American people. If the producers are truly interested, they’ll figure out a way to make it work without me having to compromise my own principled mission.”
Even so, it appears as though Patton, who landed a $160,000 a year job overseeing HUD’s New York and New Jersey region after serving as the Trump campaign’s senior adviser on minority engagement, has been on a never-ending audition.
She moved into New York City public housing in February to highlight the deplorable living conditions — Rats! Black mold! Getting trapped in an elevator! — that prompted a conference call with the president himself. But Patton said she had to suspend her month-long stay to be in Washington this week for mandatory HUD meetings.
Over the objections of some HUD officials, Patton skipped the final day of meetings for regional administrators, taking unpaid leave Wednesday to pop up behind a Republican congressman as he grilled Trump’s former fixer on his characterization of the president as a racist.
Her surprise appearance at the hearing — she stood for less than a minute as Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) recounted Patton’s previous statements that she would never work for anyone who was racist — was panned by critics who said she had allowed herself to be used as a prop.
Patton hit back Thursday by appearing on the president’s favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends,” promoting “MY SIDE of the story” with the hashtags #AMustWatch, #NoHoldsBarred and #TheRealStory on Instagram.
“I was not there to represent an entire race of people. I was there to represent one man,” Patton said on the show, emphatically pointing her finger in the air.
She highlighted her résumé as a “black female who is highly educated, rose up through the ranks of one of the most competitive companies in real estate, spoke before 25 million people at the Republican National Convention and now works at one of the most historic administrations in history.”
Cohen said Wednesday that he had helped Patton get her job at the Trump Organization as well as at HUD. The two were “virtually inseparable,” Patton posted on Instagram this week, beneath an old photo of them dining in Trump Tower.
Patton began working for Eric Trump, the president’s son, in 2009 as the vice president of his foundation and as his primary aide before being promoted in 2012 to be the senior aide for all the Trump children, according to the résumé she submitted to HUD.
Her June 2017 promotion at HUD from a Carson senior adviser to regional administrator overseeing the nation’s largest housing authority stirred controversy because of her lack of housing expertise and accusations that she had embellished her résumé.
At HUD, Patton has the reputation of being uncontrollable — and untouchable, given her close ties to the Trumps. The Post previously reported on emails showing how she tried to get a colleague fired by citing her friendship with Eric Trump.
Her silent role at the Cohen hearing has further elevated her profile, bringing intense media scrutiny as well as opportunity.
Darryl Madden, spokesman for HUD’s Office of Inspector General, told The Post on Thursday that the office has referred Patton’s appearance at the hearing to the Office of Special Counsel for additional review.
Patton appears to relish being in the crosshairs, even as late night comedy fodder. She gave an appreciative nod on Facebook to “partisan comedian Trevor Noah,” host of “The Daily Show,” who joked after the hearing that the Trump family seemed to have a “bat signal” for Patton because “whenever the Trumps are accused of racism, they always bring the same woman … like if you can only bring one black person every time, something tells me you don’t have black friends.”
On Thursday night, she appeared on Laura Ingraham’s show. Friday, she’s set to appear before Fox News host Sean Hannity. Saturday, it’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine.”
On Monday, Patton is slated to resume regularly scheduled programming: moving in with her third volunteer family living in New York public housing, this time in Queens, where Amazon was supposed to build a second headquarters.
And just as she has done during her week-long stays in housing complexes in the Bronx and on the Upper West Side, Patton will tour the distressed apartments, documented in her own video blog — and the media she has invited to tag along.