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2.21.18 5:04 AM ET
President Donald Trump and a pro-Trump pastor are working on a plan for rejuvenating black America and crumbling urban communities.
The plan was also co-conceived by Trump’s personal lawyer who recently admitted to facilitating a six-figure payment to buy the silence of a porn star, with whom Trump allegedly had an affair behind Melania’s back.
Darrell C. Scott, a Cleveland-area pastor and former member of Trump’s presidential transition team, is spearheading the effort from outside the administration. He has sarcastically referred to this 13-point “Urban Revitalization Plan” as the Trump administration’s “black people plan,” in a previous interview with The Daily Beast.
“This is the president fulfilling his campaign promise to the African-American community,” Scott told The Daily Beast. Scott said that he has had meetings over the course of several months in the West Wing to discuss the details of the initiative with the president, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who Scott affectionately calls “J-Rock.”
“Behind the scenes, and unbeknownst to many, Jared (J-Rock) Kushner is the driving force behind the Urban Revitalization and Prison Reform Initiatives!” the pastor tweeted late last month after another White House meeting with senior staffers.
“Urban Revitalization” is something President Trump has largely outsourced to non-White House allies and informal advisers, instead of pushing to make it a part of his legislative agenda. Scott has been working on crafting this plan, which the White House hopes to roll out this year. He is eyeing the help of several associates and Trump-world figures—including Trump’s aggressive, unflinchingly loyal lawyer Michael Cohen, who Scott credits as a “one of the originators” of the plan.
Cohen does not have strong credentials as an ally to or activist in black communities. He does, however, have a proven track record as a consummate, Trump-world character. Beyond paying off porn actress Stormy Daniels with hush money, he is also noted for being Trump’s longtime legal “pitbull” and claiming—as a professional attorney—that “you cannot rape your spouse” because “there’s very clear case law [on that].”
Cleveland-native activist Kareem Lanier, who works closely with Scott and has known him for decades, is another one of the main drivers behind the plan. Lanier is focusing on outreach for corporate partnerships. He and Scott and Cohen are members of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump.
“We came up with it together,” Scott said.
Cohen and Lanier did not respond to requests to comment on the record for this story. Neither did White House officials. But the fact that the “urban revitalization plan” has been largely outsourced to individuals outside the White House suggests that it remains very much in the origination, not operational, stages.
Trump administration sources with knowledge of the “revitalization” plan could not specify a date range for an official roll-out, and confirmed that this would not be a legislative package, but rather a public-private partnership announced by the White House, possibly involving executive actions or orders.
Specifics of the initiative are being kept fairly close to the vest. But core priorities are set to focus on affordable housing, transitional housing, health and wellness centers, banking, youth programs, women’s empowerment training, and financial literacy, according to Scott and an administration official.
Scott stressed that there would be “no gentrification component” in the plan. He and Lanier have been busy lining up private-sector partners, with talks in progress with the shopping mall company Triple Five Group, home-builder Pulte Homes, and Blue Sky Capital, among others. (None responded to requests for comment.)
Scott had previously recounted to The Daily Beast that he’s briefed Trump in the Oval Office on the progress made. The conversations have also touched on how their plan could help alleviate the woes of various American cities, including Chicago, a favorite topic and target of President Trump’s. Scott recalled that Trump told him during their Oval Office meeting in December that Chicago, was going to be a “big job [that’s] not going to be easy.”
“It’ll probably be harder than this tax bill was,” Trump added, while discussing a “solution for Chicago,” among other quandaries.
When their 40-minute meeting concluded, the president simply said, according to those in the room, “you got the blessing, this looks great.” Officials noted that the president hadn’t closely studied the documents presented to him. But one senior Trump aide said the president enjoyed “the Pastor’s presentation and his enthusiasm.”
Scott has toyed with the idea of running for Congress as a “Trump guy” to help purge “backstabbing” Republicans disloyal to the White House. He has a relationship with the president going back to at least 2011. The first time he and his wife met Trump at Trump Tower, more than half a decade ago, the future president talked to them about the tyranny of saying “Happy Holidays”—a subject that became a preferred campaign-trail applause line in the 2016 election.
“We talked about this back in 2011 when we met,” Scott said, recalling their meeting in Trump Tower in New York City. “He said he went to Macy’s [recently] and that all they had up was ‘Happy Holidays,’ and he didn’t see a sign that said, ‘Merry Christmas.’ He said, ‘Where’s the ‘Merry Christmas,’ what’s going on here?’”
Trump was emphatic enough about the matter that Scott says his wife has commented multiple times over the years about the exchange, saying: “Wow, that really must have bothered him.”
But if the president hopes to improve his standing among other black voters simply saying “Merry Christmas” and endorsing Scott’s plan may not do the trick.
As a candidate and as leader of the free world, Trump has maintained consistently low poll numbers among African Americans. His comments on “shithole” African countries, his administration’s insistence that “voter fraud” takes place in inner cities, and inability to unequivocally condemn violent, racist agitators following the Charlottesville slaying did not help either. However, President Trump has repeatedly touted the African-American unemployment rate, claimed that he’ll be great for the black populace, and, as 2016 candidate, insisted that in 2020 “I will get over 95 percent of the African-American vote. I promise you.” (He won’t.)
“What do you have to lose?” Trump said, in his famous pitch to black voters. “You’re living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. Fifty-eight percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”
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