Leaked audio reveals Trump relished low Black turnout in 2016 election

Tootsie Warhol, a lawyer-turned-activist, provided POLITICO with the audio recording.

A voter enters a polling precinct to cast their ballot in Florida's primary election on August 18, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

On January 16, 2017, shortly before his inauguration, Donald Trump addressed a group of civil rights leaders behind closed doors at Trump Towers and admitted that low Black voter turnout in the 2016 election gave him the presidency.

“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,” the president-elect said in an audio recording of the meeting shared with POLITICO.

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Leaders from the Drum Major Institute, a voting rights group founded by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harry Wachtel, met with Trump on Martin Luther King Day in 2017. The meeting was held in order to push a proposal that would place photo identification on social security cards to comply with voter ID laws that often suppressed the Black vote.

Martin Luther King III, William Wachtel, James Forbes, Johnny Mack and Scott Rechler were in attendance, and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young spoke with Trump over the phone during the meeting. It was Wachtel’s then chief of staff, Tootsie Warhol, a lawyer-turned-activist who provided POLITICO with the audio recording.

President-elect Donald Trump and Kanye West stand together in the lobby at Trump Tower, December 13, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“The first thing that I can never forget is how when you walked in, (Trump) name drops all these black celebrities and tries to give the illusion that they’re his friends,” Warhol told POLITICO.

Over the course of the 45-minute-meeting, Trump asked the attendees if they were surprised by how badly he’d beaten Clinton, and he bragged about winning 11 percent of the Black vote in the 2016 election. According to exit polls, Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million and won only 8 percent of the Black vote.

“And we did well with the Hispanics and we did well with women. You know, the women were gonna abandon me, but we did well with them,” Trump bragged.

At one point, Trump left the meeting to take a call and when he returned he told the attendees, “Off the record, that was your friend, Barack (Obama). We actually have a very good relationship. I said he did a great job last night on ’60 Minutes,’ and, uh, we actually have a very good relationship.”

As the meeting continued, Trump complained about the conditions of America’s inner cities, commenting that they were in bad shape. Trump proclaimed that he listens to African Americans better than anyone else, including the leaders in the room.

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Upon news of the audio leak, deputy White House press secretary, Judd Deere issued a statement which read: “The President is grateful for his support among Black Americans, and their many contributions to helping make America great. 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.”

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