WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s unofficial minority outreach operation will seek the blessing and the resources of the Republican National Committee during a meeting on Friday.
Since its launch in April, the National Diversity Coalition for Trump (NDCT) has functioned on its own — paying for its own website and covering its own expenses. According to two sources familiar with the inner workings of the organization, NDCT leaders expected to eventually become part of the official Trump campaign. That hasn’t happened and now the organization will seek funding from the RNC in the Friday meeting, which will include NDCT executive director Bruce LeVell, former Apprentice contestant Omarosa Manigault, and actor and Fox News contributor Stacey Dash.
Internally, NDCT members have been frustrated over their status among the aides and confidants in Trump’s orbit. The group has continuously been characterized by people close to Trump as not representing the campaign in any official capacity. Trump has privately acknowledged the group’s efforts, saying, “I appreciate what you all have been doing” and mentioning the executive board by name.
“I don’t know what we’re going to be, whether it’s campaign side or something else,” LeVell, the executive director of NDCT, said in a recent interview with BuzzFeed News. “What I do know is we’re going to be ready to go coming out of the gate for the general.”
The meeting is the brainchild of the RNC’s new strategic initiatives team after weeks of lobbying from the group, and it is being billed as a forum for the two sides to get to know each other. Trump surrogates will also get a refresher on media training and have an opportunity to meet in smaller groups with staffers at the RNC and be engaged in something of a tutorial about how the organization works.
Sources familiar with the group’s strategy said that the NDCT will lay out, with the full backing of the candidate, its plan for minority outreach for the next few months. That plan, according to these sources, places an emphasis on jobs, education, and criminal justice. On the third point, black Republicans had been particularly critical of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski: Two sources said Lewandowski, in private conversations, described the movement for an overhaul of the criminal justice system as anti-police. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News reported that Lewandowski made the decision that the campaign would not launch outreach initiatives in favor of a broader message aimed at the entire country.
The NDCT’s meeting with the RNC comes after Lewandowski’s firing. People close to LeVell say he’s trying to make a good impression at the RNC after initially, according to two sources, angering some there when he sent a press release announcing that his daughter, Leah LeVell, would be joining the RNC. Proclaiming her a member of the NDCT’s advisory board, the release said she “will begin working with the Strategic Initiatives team for the Republican National Committee in Washington, DC this summer.”
“That was a Bruce power play,” the source close to the Trump campaign said. “She believes everything her dad believes. She’s a boxer, she’s not stupid at all. She’s been right under him every step of the way.”
As of now, Trump doesn’t have the resources to run a general election presidential campaign. In interviews with BuzzFeed News, black Republicans — some who are supporting Trump, others who are not — said they fear minority outreach will be among the last things to get funded.
LeVell dismissed Trump’s fundraising as much ado about nothing. “We recently did a fundraiser at Charlie Loudermilk’s house in Buckhead and raised $1.2 million,” LeVell said. “That same momentum and euphoria will cross over into the fundraising so it’s not a big deal.”
Even if the RNC has the resources to do the type of outreach LeVell and his team envisions, much of it remains up to the candidate.
“I don’t think the people in the room [today] can make that decision,” a source close to the Trump campaign said. “RNC is putting a lot into communications and they will want to use them as surrogates. But when it comes to funding, until Trump says that is what the resources are going to, then it won’t happen.”
Darren Sands is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Darren Sands at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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