New Court Filing Comes After Reed Cordish, Department of Transportation Claim That Council Never Existed Despite Evidence of Its Activity Since January
WASHINGTON, D.C.— On behalf of Food & Water Watch, Democracy Forward filed an amended complaint against President Trump and the Department of Transportation to force the Trump Administration to follow federal transparency laws and disclose the full workings of President Trump’s Infrastructure Council, which the Administration now claims never existed, despite multiple private meetings and policy recommendations.
The new filing follows reports that the Administration has rubber-stamped infrastructure proposals from Council co-chairs Steven Roth and Richard LeFrak that could enrich large urban real estate developers, without taking any concrete action to actually invest in the country’s roads and bridges.
In the Administration’s October 16 motion to dismiss this case, Reed Cordish, an Assistant to the President and confidant of Jared Kushner, stated in a declaration that the Council “never came into existence” despite admitting Administration staff “had some preliminary discussions” with Council members. However, it was recently reported that the White House has developed a 70-page memo of principles for a $200 billion infrastructure plan. And a lengthy record of statements by, and meetings between, the Administration and Council members (including at Mar-a-Lago) further demonstrate the Council existed and acted.
“President Trump may have disbanded his financially-conflicted Infrastructure Council in the wake of Charlottesville, but not before the Council met in secret for months and spoon-fed their wish list to the President and his Administration,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director, Anne Harkavy. “This self-dealing approach to infrastructure policy, which puts President Trump’s Wall Street friends in charge and shifts costly risks to the American taxpayer is unacceptable, and it’s illegal because it is hidden from the public’s view.”
Since the Council’s formation in January, the Trump Administration has announced numerous infrastructure proposals that prioritize returns for urban developers over funding for America’s highways and bridges. For example:
- As part of E.O. 13807, President Trump adopted a Council recommendation to create a bankruptcy court style arbitration process for intra-agency permitting disputes to allow developers to evade safety and environmental regulations.
- President Trump put the Council on Environmental Quality in charge of the intra-agency dispute process, and nominated a climate change denier who served with Roth on President Trump’s Economic Advisory Council to lead CEQ.
- E.O. 13807 revoked the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard that required federally-funded projects to take into account environmental risk considerations when building on a floodplain, benefiting a new Lefrak development in North Miami’s floodplain.
This filing builds on the initial complaint brought by Democracy Forward on behalf of Food & Water Watch challenging the infrastructure’s secret operation in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a federal transparency law. The suit seeks to open the Council’s activities to public scrutiny and invalidate the actions it has taken behind closed doors.
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy area,s represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.