The Art of the FOIA: Public Records and Donald Trump

Source: Michael Morisy, MuckRock, July 8, 2016

From his real estate deals to a fallen educational empire, Trump has left his mark in the public record

The Freedom of Information Act has been a particularly hot topic this election season, as Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server stymied earlier attempts at requesting State Department records and left many wondering if the elaborate setup was simply a means of avoiding public scrutiny.

But even those who have never served in government can be fair game for clever FOIA requests. You don’t build a sprawling real-estate, media, and #brand empire without agencies taking notice, and Donald Trump is no exception.

Many of the public records released on Trump this election season didn’t come through public records or FOIA requests, but through court records, which generally fall outside of normal request channels but which still remain an important source of public accountability. In many cases, those court records are the best or only feasible way to dig into major disputes involving Trump, even when his choices have reshaped whole cities.