Lawsuit Challenges Secrecy of White House Advisers on Infrastructure

Nonprofit Food and Water Watch filed suit against President Trump, claiming that he illegally convened an advisory council of private businessmen to plan infrastructure overhaul

The nonprofit group Food and Water Watch filed suit against President Trump last week, claiming that he illegally convened an advisory council to develop a plan to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure without the required public disclosures.

The lawsuit also names Elaine Chao, secretary of transportation, and Wilbur Ross, secretary of commerce. It charges the administration skirted the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a law that mandates public notice of an advisory panel’s members and meetings.

Days before his inauguration, the president announced that he was naming real estate developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth to lead the infrastructure group. He has since added two people from the world of private equity: Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, and William E. Ford, the chief executive of General Atlantic. But while Mr. Trump has solicited policy advice from the infrastructure council, the group was not formally established by the White House until two weeks ago.

The Food and Water Watch suit claims that the Trump administration “has adopted a pattern and practice of establishing advisory committees, largely populated by President Trump’s business associates and friends, to advise him and agency secretaries on economic and business-related matters.”

The lawsuit added: “This practice, in effect outsourcing policy making to private individuals who are unfettered by conflict-of-interest rules and other public accountability standards, has raised a host of ethical and transparency concerns.”

(more on legal challenge to Trump infrastructure advisors . . . )