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President Trump Holds Meeting With Congressional Black Caucus

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump's outreach to black voters essentially came down to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look how much African-American communities have suffered under democratic control. To those, I say the following - what do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump? What do you have to lose?

CORNISH: Well, for the first time today, President Trump met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. And to hear how it went we're joined now by the group's chairman, Congressman Cedric Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana. Welcome to the program.

CEDRIC RICHMOND: Hi, how are you? Thank you for having me.

CORNISH: Now, the president has released his budget proposal, and you called it a raw deal that robs the poor and the middle class to pay the richest of the rich. Did you repeat those words at the White House today?

RICHMOND: Yes. We told him how problematic that - his budget was. And we answered the question for the president. And his question was, what do you have to lose? And we gave him our policy document, and we talked to him about here's what we have to lose. And when you start talking about cutting early childhood education, when you start cutting CDBG grants, when you start closing...

CORNISH: And those are community development grants.

RICHMOND: Right, Community Development Block Grants. When you start talking about closing minority business development centers and community development financial institutions which help African-American entrepreneurs start, when you defund Second Chance Act and other things, it's just a budget document that really makes it harder for poor people, black and white, to rise out of poverty. And it is not a document that protects people in rural areas or inner cities. And we wanted him to know that.

CORNISH: Now, just to jump in here for a second, you know, other members of your caucus said that they wanted also to talk with the president about the inaccurate and hurtful ways he has talked about African-American communities in general. Is this something that he responded to? Did you raise this directly to him?

RICHMOND: We raised that to him about the description and how he described our African-American communities, comparing it to Baghdad and war zones and all of those other things. And his goal was, hey, I really want to make them better. I want to make them safer communities. And we pushed back to say that we understand that, and - but your language in how you describe them is not helpful. And he got it.

CORNISH: What made you think he got it?

RICHMOND: Because I think he said, I got it.

CORNISH: You know, since the election, members of the CBC have had high-profile tangles with this White House - John Lewis refusing to attend the inauguration, Maxine Waters in recent days implying the president would be impeached. And you had to apologize to Kellyanne Conway for making a sexist remark about her at a dinner in Washington. Is this a relationship that can be repaired between the CBC and the White House?

RICHMOND: We represent 78 million Americans, 17 million of which are African-American, and - which is 41 percent of the African-American population in this state. We have an obligation to represent those people. And that is to engage in candid conversations with the president. We talked about the Muslim ban. We talked about comprehensive criminal justice reform. We talked about investment in HBCUs and that we were disappointed that HBCUs were not plussed (ph) up after all of those college presidents met with him. And I think we have an obligation to engage with him to, one, educate him and his Cabinet on the fact that...

CORNISH: Yes.

RICHMOND: ...We know what the solutions are.

CORNISH: Cedric Richmond. He's chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Thank you for speaking with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF KAKI KING SONG, "GAY SONS OF LESBIAN MOTHERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.