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Trump snubs Dallas’ top law enforcement officials, all black, for talk about policing and race in Dallas

Dallas Morning News logo Dallas Morning News 6/11/2020 By Todd J. Gillman and Gromer Jeffers Jr., The Dallas Morning News
a group of people holding wine glasses: Dallas Police Chief U. Rene\u00e9 Hall at police headquarters on June 2, 2020. © Juan Figueroa/Staff Photographer/The Dallas Morning News/TNS Dallas Police Chief U. Rene\u00e9 Hall at police headquarters on June 2, 2020.

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump heads to Dallas on Thursday for a discussion on race and policing that excludes the three top law enforcement officials in the county – a police chief, sheriff and district attorney who all are black.

The White House defended the snub, insisting the president will still hear a diversity of views before heading to a $10 million campaign dinner with two dozen donors who pony up at least $580,600 each for a meal and souvenir photo.

The exclusion from a roundtable on police-community relations brought a sort of resigned condemnation from Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot. Without himself or Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall or Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown, he said, “of course [Trump] would not be getting the full picture of advice from law enforcement. I don’t know who he’s going to get it from. I mean, we are the people on the ground.”

The presidential visit comes amid heightened tensions nationwide since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black suspect pinned by the neck for nearly nine minutes under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer now facing a murder charge.

Trump has demanded a military crackdown on protests nationwide, taunting Seattle’s mayor ahead of the Dallas visit about a recent flare-up and warning that he’ll send in troops if necessary.

On Thursday morning, Trump boasted again about his stroll to a church near the White House, where he brandished a Bible as cameras clicked, after National Guard and Park Police cleared protesters from Lafayette Square using pepper gas and rubber pellets.

But the nation’s top military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, apologized Thursday for taking part in that photo opportunity, calling it a “mistake” that created "a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.” The implicit rebuke of the commander in chief echoed Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s rejection of Trump’s call for putting federal troops on the streets of U.S. cities.

Air Force One is scheduled to land at Love Field at 2:30 p.m. The president has no public appearances planned. He will sit down with Fox News’ Harris Faulkner for an interview during the visit.

“President Trump is more interested in photo-ops than offering a healing voice as our nation mourns," Trump’s rival in November, former vice president Joe Biden, said in a statement ahead of the Texas trip.

Dallas County Democrats are organizing a protest near the president’s fund-raising dinner at a Preston Hollow mansion.

Roughly two dozen guests will pay at least $580,600 per couple, with proceeds expected to hit $10 million spread between the Trump campaign, Republican National Committee and 22 state parties.

The White House has yet to release a guest list for the roundtable, hosted at Gateway Church’s campus in North Dallas on Hillcrest Road near Forest Lane, one of the city’s more affluent areas.

Gateway is a conservative evangelical megachurch, one of the nation’s largest, with a half-dozen campuses in the area and a mostly white congregation.

The White House aide rejected the suggestion that it’s a strange choice for a conversation on “disparities” and “underserved communities.”

“There’s a lot of diversity in the community,” a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the trip the official said. “Everyone cares about these communities. And this is about bringing people together from all walks.”

Mayor Eric Johnson’s office said that he was invited but had a scheduling conflict. Other black officials in the area were not invited, including three members of Congress who represent parts of Dallas: U.S. Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Colin Allred of Dallas, and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth. All are Democrats.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, both close Republican allies of the president, are expected to attend.

“You will have a lot of community leaders who’ve had experience working hand in glove with law enforcement. There’s going to be a number of law enforcement individuals in the audience,” the official said. “It’s a community approach on partnering with law enforcement.”

Allred, whose district includes Gateway Church, noted that Trump’s dinner guests will get COVID tests from White House medical personnel that aren’t universally unavailable at long-term care facilities, or for business owners and customers.

"I find it be insulting to the people in Texas who can’t get tested for COVID…not only for the president to be coming to Dallas for a fundraiser, but to be making sure that everyone who gets into that fundraiser does have a COVID test,” he said. “This is a slap in the face to Texans and people across the country who are still struggling because of our failure to have a national strategy.”

Creuzot would have had plenty of advice to offer, on policing and other topic.

“I would tell him to get a good night's sleep. Turn off the television, turn off the phone. Stop the tweets. Stop the nonsense. Go to work,” he said. “…Act appropriate. Be a unifier. Not everybody's out to get you. Not everybody needs to be attacked.”

The former trial court judge, said Trump has made the job of law enforcement harder with comments urging police to rough up suspects, as he did in July 2017 when calling for crackdown on gang violence.

“Please, don’t be too nice,” the president told police gathered for that announcement on Long Island. “When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head… and they’ve just killed somebody….You can take the hand away, okay?”

Comments like that sound like tough law and order talk, Creuzot said, but when a president says such things, “it’s much more difficult to select a jury. When he tweets all this inflammatory stuff and the average person reads it – a person of color or just a person of conscience reads that – it creates doubts about the police.”

“He is showing an obvious bias towards inappropriate police conduct, which does not help people of color feel safe, feel valued by him or the police in the area in which they live,” Creuzot said.

Several business leaders told The Dallas Morning News that White House aides were looking for business owners who received money from the CARES Act, Congress’ response to shutdowns prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Others expected at the roundtable include former state Rep. Scott Turner, a Frisco Republican.

The former NFL player chairs the White House’s Opportunity and Revitalization Council and is one of the few black officials in the Trump administration.

Many prominent African American leaders in Dallas were not invited, including the Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, senior pastor at the influential Friendship-West Baptist Church.

“I would have fell out from shock and a heart attack, if he did invite me,” Haynes said. “It’s a dog and pony show that will be devoid of substance, if he continues on his current path.”

Haynes expressed disdain for Trump posing for photos, triumphant, holding a Bible outside the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church last week.

“I hope he doesn’t use the event as a prop to push his political agenda,” Haynes said.

David Wilson, a Dallas pastor and president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, did receive a preliminary invitation, asking if he was willing “to be vetted for a sit down meeting with the president.”

“I just can’t do it,” he said. “I really don’t want to hear the lies or be used as a prop.”

Washington correspondent Tom Benning contributed to this report.

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©2020 The Dallas Morning News

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