At least four members of the Congressional Black Caucus spoke out against President Donald Trumps administration on Friday, expressing reservations about members of the presidents inner circle and challenging him to work with African-American lawmakers to address the concerns of black communities.
Theres a whole host of issues wed like to discuss with him, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC, mentioning criminal justice reform, income inequality and voting rights.
We look forward to an open dialogue Steve Bannon, however, should not be in the room, Jeffries continued.
Bannon, Trumps chief strategist,has attracted controversy for elevating white nationalist views and the so called alt-right movement as former executive chair of the website Breitbart News, which publishes racist and misogynistic content.
Hes a stone-cold racist and a white supremacist sympathizer, Jeffries said. Itd be hard for me to participate in any meeting with Steve Bannon that normalizes his presence in the White House.
The CBC media appearances came after Trumps chaotic Thursday press conference, in which the president asked April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, if she could help facilitate a meeting with the caucus. Ryan is black.
Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours? asked Trump, responding to a question about whether he planned to work with the CBC on crafting policies regarding inner cities.
Jeffries and other CBC members said theyd already reached out to Trump in a letter last month, but that the president hadnt responded.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) told MSNBC on Friday that the CBCs January letter was sent as a rebuttal to some of Trumps heated campaign rhetoric referring to undocumented immigrants and border security.
We dont believe in divisive politics, we dont believe in a wall, Jackson Lee said. We believe in comprehensive immigration reform.
Jackson Lee went on to say that a possible meeting [with Trump] will be coming.
Other CBC members characterized Trumps treatment of Ryan as insensitive. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) criticized Trumps decision to ask the reporter for a meeting with the CBC, especially after hed ignored the groups initial request.
It would have been funny if it wasnt so serious, Meeks said.
Meeks said Trump could have instead worked with Omarosa Manigault, a former Apprentice contestant and current director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison, to craft an appropriate response to the CBC.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) was perhaps the least sympathetic to Trump.
I dont even think theres been any contact or communication [with the CBC], Cleaver told MSNBC. I dont even think, to be 100 percent honest, that the president even knew what the CBC was.
Still, Cleaver said the exchange with Ryan could have been worse.
Im also really pleased that he didnt ask her to sweep and mop in the room where the press conference was held, he said.