The Congressional Black Caucus is expected to reject an invitation to meet with President Donald Trump, according to four sources close to the group.
The Trump administration, sources said, has done nothing to advance the CBC’s priorities since the group’s executive board first met with Trump in March. And members are worried the request for a caucus-wide meeting would amount to little more than a photo op that the president could use to bolster his standing among African-Americans.
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“No one wants to be a co-star on the reality show,” said one senior Democratic aide.
Lawmakers in the 49-member group each received an invitation last week from Omarosa Manigault, the-reality-TV-star-turned-White-House-aide who has pitched herself as an unofficial liaison to the CBC.
“As requested by the president, we would like to schedule a follow-up meeting with the entire membership of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss issues pertinent to your members,” Manigault wrote in the invitation, obtained by POLITICO.
But multiple CBC members said they were put off that she signed the invitation as “the Honorable Omarosa Manigault,” saying she hasn’t earned that title nor has she helped raise the profile of CBC issues within the White House as promised.
CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) isn’t expected to make an official announcement until after the group discusses the invitation during its weekly meeting Wednesday. Kamara Jones, a spokeswoman for the CBC, declined to comment on the record.
But sources close to the group say they have been told the caucus-wide meeting with the president is "off the table."
There are both logistical and political hurdles to the entire caucus meeting with Trump.
With nearly 50 members, assembling even most of the caucus for a meeting would be difficult. “How do you get 30-plus members into a room having a meeting and make it meaningful?” said one source familiar with the caucus’ deliberations.
But members of the caucus are also worried about the optics of a meeting. During their meeting with Trump in March, members of the leadership tried to avoid taking a picture with Trump for fear it would be used to make it look like they had thrown their support behind the president.
If the majority of the caucus were to go to the White House, the pressure to huddle with Trump in the Oval Office for a group photo could be tougher to avoid. “The entire caucus goes down there, it’s sort of harder to control,” the source familiar with the situation said.
Aside from the optics, Trump has done little, if anything, to address any of the policies important to the caucus, members say.
CBC sources said caucus members were miffed that the Trump budget proposal didn’t include additional funding for historically black colleges and universities after the president made a big show of meeting with leaders from those schools in the Oval Office in February.
Trump further angered the CBC when he issued a statement accompanying the stopgap funding bill in early May questioning the constitutionality of federal funding for historically black colleges and universities.
“For a president who pledged to reach out to African-Americans and other minorities, this statement is stunningly careless and divisive,” Richmond and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a joint statement at the time.
Sources say the president also hasn’t made any efforts to advance CBC priorities on criminal justice reform or voting rights, two issues that are also critically important to the group, and the White House hasn’t even responded to policy requests from members since the March meeting.