On the second night of the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump orchestrated a ridiculous stunt, overseeing a naturalization ceremony in a White House hallway. It was cynical spectacle, brazen not only in its politicization of governmental functions, but also in its contradiction of the immigration policies espoused by the White House in which the stunt took place.
It was, however, made quite a bit worse when we learned that some of the participants in the ceremony were put on display at a political convention without their consent.
Evidently, they weren't the only ones. The New York Times reported on what transpired after Lynne Patton, who oversees federal housing programs in New York, reached out to a tenants' group at the New York City Housing Authority.
[Patton said] that she was interested in speaking with residents about conditions in the authority's buildings, which have long been in poor repair. Four tenants soon assembled in front of a video camera and were interviewed for more than four hours by Ms. Patton herself. Three of the tenants were never told that their interviews would be edited into a two-minute video clip that would air prominently on Thursday night at the Republican National Convention and be used to bash Mayor Bill de Blasio, the three tenants said in interviews on Friday.
"I am not a Trump supporter," one of the tenants told the newspaper after she was featured in an RNC video. "I am not a supporter of his racist policies on immigration."
As we discussed last week, if members of Team Trump are going to use human beings as props in political theater, the least they can do is let the people know they're members of a production. It's not too much to ask.
Indeed, whether or not one liked the speakers at the Democratic National Convention, viewers could at least take some comfort in knowing that those who lent their voices did so knowingly and voluntarily. The same cannot be said for their GOP counterparts.
If Lynne Patton's name sounds at all familiar, it's because she was a Trump family wedding planner before the president put her in charge of the nation's largest federal housing authority. She's proven to be controversial for a variety of reasons, including an incident last year in which she said, in reference to political activities that may violate federal ethics laws, "I honestly don't care anymore."
Little did we know at the time that the quote would prove prescient. The Times' report added:
The episode represents another stark example of how President Trump has deployed government resources to further his political ambitions. Ms. 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.
When Patton said last year that she didn't care whether her political activities were at odds with the law, she was referring specifically to the Hatch Act.
Meanwhile, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, who helped oversee last week's naturalization ceremony at the White House, sat down with ABC News' Jonathan Karl yesterday, and the host asked, "Did you know when you took part in that ceremony that it was going to be used that night at the Republican convention?" Wolf replied, "No."
I find that difficult to believe, but taken at face value, it suggests yet another person was an unwitting participant in the Republican National Convention. The alternative is that Wolf engaged in political activity while acting in his official capacity, which, again, is plainly at odds with federal ethics laws.