Just days before Donald Trump’s inauguration back in 2016 he had a private meeting inside Trump Tower. During that meeting Trump told a group of civil rights leaders that lower turnout among black voters benefitted him greatly in the presidential election.
“Many Blacks didn’t go out to vote for Hillary ‘cause they liked me. That was almost as good as getting the vote, you know, and it was great,” Trump stated according to an audio recording of the meeting that was sent to POLITICO.
It has been three-and-a-half-years since Trump made those comments and now, as both parties battle over restrictions on voting created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump has attacked mail-in-voting repeatedly and attempted to take down the U.S. Postal Service in order to prevent them from handling the amount of extra work mail-in-voting will create. Trump has repeatedly stated, without any evidence to back it up, that mail-in-voting will cause widespread fraud and benefit Democrats.
Republicans have already filed lawsuits against a number of states attempting to do so. Usually higher voter turnouts benefit Democrats and low turnout among black voters in key states was key in Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump in 2016.
Several voting rights activists have stated that the GOP’s effort to limit access to absentee ballots will keep many voters from casting their votes in the fall, it will especially affect the turnout of Black voters and the elderly and others that are considered at high risk because of the coronavirus.
The meeting inside Trump Tower was to lobby for putting photo identification on Social Security cards to help combat voter ID laws.
The meeting included Martin Luther King III, William Wachtel, James Forbes, Johnny Mack and Scott Rechler. Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young attended the meeting via phone.
POLITICO was given the audio recording by Wachtel’s then-chief of staff Tootsie Warhol. Warhol, a lawyer turned activist, recorded the audio on her iPhone.
Warhol says he is now sharing the recording because he is now in the process of reinventing himself as Warhol, an artist and activist, since leaving the law firm behind him back in November.
Warhol filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2020. He says that his independent campaign is just a way for him to engage voters and that he wants to see Joe Biden take the presidency in November.
“The first thing that I can never forget was how when you walked in, (Trump) name-drops all these Black celebrities and tries to give the illusion that they’re his friends,” Warhol told POLITICO.
Trump told the group that he had “so many” Black friends who “are so incredible, and everyone knows that.” Before the meeting started he showed them NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal’s sneaker, world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson’s belt and Sugar Ray Leonard’s boxing glove.
Trump asked during the meeting if the attendees the attendees were “surprised that Hillary lost so badly” and then went on to brag that he had 11 percent of the Black vote. Polls show that Trump had less than 8 percent of the Black vote.
“Sounds lousy, but Romney was 4 percent; McCain was 3 percent,” Trump said, misstating both candidates’ support from Black voters. “And we did well with the Hispanics, and we did well with women. You know, the women were gonna abandon me, but we did well with them.”
During the meeting Trump left the room to take a phone call. When he returned he stated that “off the record, that was your friend Barack (Obama), We actually have a very good relationship. I said he did a great job last night on ‘60 Minutes,’ and, uh, we actually have a very good relationship.”
Later in the meeting Trump asked “Do you know John Lewis? What do you think?”
Just days before the meeting John Lewis had told the media that he did not see Trump as a “legitimate president.”
“It really backfired on him because he’s really, you know, it’s what he said is very bad in terms of a democracy,” Trump said. “You run. You win. They even gave me that, right? They gave the Man of the Year stuff in Time. And then he says, ‘Oh, it’s not legitimate.’ That’s really against a democracy, like or not like.”
“I didn’t know him personally, but I always liked him,” Trump said of Lewis. “I thought he was a good guy, a good icon.”
After Lewis’ death Trump stated that he didn’t know Lewis and could not comment on whether his life had been impressive or not.
“I find a lot of people impressive,” Trump said during an interview with Axios. “I find many people not impressive.”
Warhol says that Trump talked about hosting another meeting, but it never took place.