Just last week, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyers and personal “fixer,” released an audio recording from the campaign season, featuring a candid chat with the future president about a possible payment involving one of Trump’s former alleged mistresses. But that wasn’t the only thing on the tape.
We also heard part of a behind-the-scenes conversation in which the then-candidate talked about using Darrell Scott, a Christian pastor associated with the Republican campaign in 2016, for purposes that weren’t altogether clear in the recording. There was no ambiguity, however, about Trump’s sentiment: he saw the conservative Ohio pastor as an ally.
With this recent history in mind, Scott was at the White House yesterday for a roundtable discussion with nearly 20 inner city pastors and faith leaders, where he used rhetoric that no doubt made the president happy, but which is difficult to take seriously.
The largely pro-Trump group present at the public event praised the president for his efforts on criminal justice reform and the economy. “This is probably the most pro-active administration regarding urban America and the faith-based community in my lifetime,” said Scott, a Trump surrogate during the 2016 campaign.
“This president actually wants to prove something to our community, our faith-based community and our ethnic community. The last president didn’t feel like he had to. He got a pass,” he added, referring to President Obama. “This is probably going to be … the most pro-black president I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
As best as I can tell, this wasn’t a joke. The pastor actually expected people to believe what he was saying.
That would be a mistake.
Even if we look past Donald Trump’s overt racism during his 2016 campaign, the Republican president has used his office to ignite ugly and wildly unnecessary racial controversies. This was obvious, of course, when Trump offered public praise for racist protesters in Charlottesville, but it’s been equally clear with his efforts to generate public disgust for African-American athletes protesting racial injustice.
But the problem isn’t just rhetorical; it’s substantive. The Trump administration last year, for example, scrapped an Obama-era policy and issued new federal guidance to educational institutions, urging them to stop considering race as a factor in school admissions.
Trump’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, meanwhile, has also stripped enforcement powers from the CFPB’s office responsible for pursuing discrimination cases. As the Washington Post reported, the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity “previously used its powers to force payouts in several prominent cases, including settlements from lenders it alleged had systematically charged minorities higher interest rates than they had for whites.”
The unit will apparently still exist, but it’ll focus on “advocacy, coordination and education,” instead of enforcement and oversight.
Making matters slightly worse, Trump’s Justice Department has “effectively shuttered an Obama-era office dedicated to making legal aid accessible to all citizens,” which also appears likely to adversely affect minority communities.
If this is the most “pro-black president” of Darrell Scott’s lifetime, I shudder to think whom he’d see as the most anti-black president.