Fearing a second meeting with President Donald Trump would be nothing more than a photo opportunity or just a social gathering in the Oval Office, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has sent a letter to the White House declining the invitation.
CBC Chair Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said the historic congressional organization previously sent communications to Trump back in January which shared the priorities of the CBC as they relate to the African-American community.
Richmond noted that the group has remained serious about the work of advancing the interests of blacks and the goals of the CBC.
“As a result, we took advantage of every opportunity to educate you on the needs of the black community and provide you with the information and solutions necessary to act on them in good faith,” Richmond said in his letter to Trump.
“Through an objective assessment, we have seen no evidence that your administration acted on our calls for action, and we have in fact witnessed steps that will affirmatively hurt black communities,” he said.
Trump and the CBC met earlier this year and both sides promised to explore possible future discussions.
However, since then, Trump has made it abundantly clear that a conversation with the entire CBC would not be entirely productive, given the actions taken by the administration since the first get together, Richmond said.
Specifically, CBC members lashed out at Trump’s budget proposal that cuts money for Pell Grants for low-income college students and eliminates the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps seniors and others on fixed incomes to heat their homes.
The caucus also noted moves by Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, specifically on drug prosecutions and civil rights enforcement, and they complained that the House GOP health care bill that Trump celebrated during a Rose Garden ceremony would “strip millions of black people of their health care.”
Richmond’s letter responded to an invitation from Trump aide Omarosa Manigault, chief spokeswoman for the White House Office of Public Liaison.
“It’s pretty disappointing that Cedric Richmond has decided to go back on his commitment to meet with us,” Manigault said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Since Manigault invited herself — and then prematurely bolted, when peppered with questions from African-American reporters, from a Black Press Week event in March, she has not returned calls or email messages left by the Black Press.
Manigault told The Associated Press that caucus members who were excluded from the March meeting have been reaching out to her personally, as well as to the White House legislative affairs team, seeking one-on-one meetings with Trump to discuss issues their constituents are concerned about.
“We will do that because they have made those requests and we will honor those requests,” Manigault said. “That’s not going to be deterred because of Cedric Richmond’s political gamesmanship.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said caucus members want substance from the White House, not a social event.
“We want to talk and deal with issues that are of concern to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and we’ve not gotten any response,” Meeks said. “My opinion and the opinion of most of just about all of the members of the CBC is that the board met [with Trump]. They gave him substantive issues which we wanted to deal with and they have not been dealt with. Until we can deal with substance and issues, what’s the benefit of a meeting?” he asked.
Further, Richmond told Trump in letter dated June 21, “while you can solicit the engagement of individual members of our caucus, the CBC as a caucus declines your invitation to meet at this time.”
“Given the lack of response to any of the many concerns we have raised with you and your administration, we decline your invitation for all 49 members of the Congressional Black Caucus to meet with you,” Richmond said.
In what might be a response to Trump’s campaign call to African-Americans where the president told black voters, “What the hell do you have to lose,” Richmond noted that “the CBC, and the millions of people we represent, have a lot to lose under your administration. I fail to see how a social gathering would benefit the policies we advocate for,” he said.
“The CBC will always be willing to engage in discussion and debate about policies and programs that will make America a more perfect union for all,” Richmond said.