WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was ready to discuss race relations and policing on Thursday before a friendly audience in Dallas as he weighs executive action on police reform in response to the national outcry following the death of George Floyd.
Notably, Dallas’ mayor and three top law enforcement officials, all of whom are black, won’t be on hand for the roundtable discussion at the Dallas campus of Gateway Church.
Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall, Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown, and Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot did not receive invitations to the event, according to their offices. Mayor Eric Johnson was invited but will not be attending because of prior commitments, according to an aide.
A senior administration who briefed reporters ahead of Trump’s trip, speaking on condition of anonymity, said other law enforcement officials will be in attendance but did not directly respond to a question about why the three officials weren’t invited.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have unveiled sweeping police reform legislation, including provisions to ban choke holds and limit legal protections for police. Congressional Republicans say they are also open to some reforms, including a national registry of use-of-force incidents so police officers cannot transfer between departments without public awareness of their records.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and senior adviser Jared Kushner have been discussing possible packages with GOP lawmakers, but it’s unclear what the president himself would be willing to accept. The White House is preparing executive orders and legislative proposals that Trump plans to unveil over the coming months, according to the senior administration official.
Trump has publicly expressed sympathy for the family of Floyd and suggested that Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin, who prosecutors say pressed his knee down on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, must have “snapped.”
But Trump has also underscored that he believes that 99% of police are “great, great people.” Top advisers, including Attorney General William Barr, have rejected the notion that systemic racial bias is a problem in American law enforcement.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, dismissed Trump’s Dallas visit in advance as a “photo-op” and charged that the president has “run away from a meaningful conversation on systemic racism and police brutality.”
The president on Wednesday met with a group of conservative African American commentators and allies to discuss policing, education, business, and other issues. He held a similar meeting on Monday at the White House with law enforcement officials.
Trump, whose campaign effort has been largely sidelined by the coronavirus, will also hold a high-dollar fundraiser during his visit to Dallas. It is expected to raise $10 million to be split between his campaign, the Republican National Committee and 22 state parties, according to a GOP official.