During a closed-door meeting with civil rights leaders after the 2016 presidential election and days before his inauguration in January 2017, President Donald Trump said the low turnout for Black voters was "great" for him in his victory over Hillary Clinton. The comments were made on Jan. 16, 2017, when Trump met with leaders of the Drum Major Institute, the voting rights group founded by Martin Luther King Jr. and Harry Wachtel. Tootsie Warhol, a lawyer who served as the chief of staff for Wachtel's son William Wachtel at the time of the meeting, gave a recording to Trump's comments to Politico this week.
"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 said during the event. Others who attended the meeting were William Wachtel, Martin Luther King III, James Forbes, Johnny Mack, and Scott Rechler. Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young spoke via phone. The Drum Major Institute leaders called for the meeting to propose adding photo identification to Social Security cards to fight voter ID laws.
Warhol, born Teddy Mukamal, told Politico he recorded Trump's comments on his iPhone. He decided to share the message with the outlet now as part of his attempt to "reinvent himself" after he left his law firm last year. He is running for president as an independent but said he hopes former Vice President Joe Biden beats Trump 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 said of the meeting.
During the 2017 meeting, Trump asked the activists if they were "surprised that Hillary lost so badly" and claimed he won 11% of the Black vote. Trump only won 8% of the Black vote according to exit polls, a 2% increase over 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Sen. John McCain, who faced President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, received 4% of the Black vote.
Later, Trump asked the group about Rep. John Lewis, days after the civil rights icon said he did not see Trump as a "legitimate president" because of Russia's meddling in the election. "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."
Warhol said Trump told the attendees Trump brought up the idea of another meeting after he took office, but it never happened. Trump invited Young to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but President Jimmy Carter presented Young with the honor in 1981.
"The President is grateful for his support among Black Americans, and their many contributions to helping make America great," deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement to Politico. "Donald Trump's record as a private citizen and as president has been one of fighting for inclusion and advocating for the equal treatment of all. Anyone who suggests otherwise is only seeking to sew (sic) division and ignore the President's work for underserved communities."