Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are preparing to meet with President Trump and said they are taking a host of issues to the table.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, a member of the CBC, said that Trump answered the caucus’ Jan. 19 request for a meeting and he expects a meeting will occur after Congress returns from a weeklong break, the week of Feb. 27.
The Democratic lawmaker said they will meet about lowering the cost of prescription drugs – a goal Trump endorsed during the campaign when he talked about using the federal government’s negotiating power to reduce prices – as well as voting rights and job growth.
While Trump has spoken at length about voter fraud and asserted that between 3 million and 5 million illegal immigrants voted, giving Hillary Clinton a lead in the popular vote, Cummings said that disenfranchisement of minority voters is a bigger issue.
“He doesn’t talk about all of the millions of people who have been denied the right to vote because of suppression. So I want to talk about things like that, also,” Cummings said.
Trump, whose political agenda includes trying to improve the lives of inner-city Americans, said recently that he wanted to meet with Cummings but that Cummings canceled because such a meeting would be bad for him politically.
Cummings said in response, “I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did.”
The situation escalated when Trump, during a press conference, was asked by a Black reporter about the meeting, and he responded by asking her to set up a meeting.
CBC member Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said later that he detected “an element of disrespect” in Trump’s comment to journalist April Ryan.
“He’s not going to ask any other reporter to do that for any other group, so why did he do that to her?” said Clyburn, also a member of the House Democratic leadership. “I think that was pretty instructive to me.”
When asked whether Trump was implying that all Black people know each other, Clyburn said, “I don’t know what his implications were, but that’s my interpretation.”
Ryan is a longtime White House reporter and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.
She specifically asked Trump whether he planned to include the CBC “in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner-city agenda.”
The president responded by asking Ryan whether the CBC are “friends of yours” and remarking, “I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?”
Ryan later tweeted, “I am a journalist not a convener! But thank you for answering my questions.”
The CBC tweeted that the group sent Trump a letter in January outlining areas where they could work together, “but you never wrote us back. Sad!”
The chairman of the CBC, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., issued a statement saying the White House had reached out to schedule a meeting with the 49-member organization. Richmond’s statement said it was remarkable that Trump had not responded to their letter earlier.
“President Trump has been in office for almost a month and the Congressional Black Caucus – which at a historic 49 members is almost a fourth of the House Democratic Caucus and represents millions of African-Americans – did not hear from the White House until we introduced ourselves on Twitter after the White House press conference,” Richmond wrote.