In Encounters With Black Leaders, Trump Has Chosen Photo Ops Over Substance


The president claims he is a champion of Black Americans. But those who have tried to work with him tell a different story.

On Martin Luther King’s Birthday in January 2017, Donald J. Trump, then the president-elect, welcomed a group of civil rights leaders, led by Dr. King’s eldest son, into his office in Trump Tower.

After a tour of Mr. Trump’s celebrity curio collection (Shaquille O’Neal’s sneakers, size 22, were a highlight), the visitors presented him with a proposal intended to prevent state voter identification laws from disenfranchising people of color.

The delegation had low expectations. Mr. Trump had championed the lie that President Barack Obama was not born in America and, in their view, played to racial fears during the 2016 campaign. He quickly dashed even those modest hopes. Low turnout among Black voters, Mr. Trump declared, had helped him defeat Hillary Clinton.

“Many people didn’t go out — many Blacks didn’t go out — to vote for Hillary because they liked me. That was almost as good as getting their vote,” Mr. Trump said, lowering his voice to say the word “Blacks,” on a recording provided by a meeting participant and confirmed as authentic by three others. (A White House spokesman did not dispute the veracity of the recording.)