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Trump without a senior black adviser after Omarosa's departure

Posted: 7:43 PM, Aug 13, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-14 00:43:35Z

None of President Donald Trump's senior White House officials are black.

Only a handful of his senior staff are of Latino, Asian or Arab descent, according to a CNN review of 48 senior White House officials. Instead, the President is being advised by a senior White House staff that is overwhelmingly white.

The lack of diversity in Trump's West Wing comes back into focus as Trump's longtime adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman, the only African-American to serve in a senior role in Trump's White House,  re-emerged into the public arena to promote her new book . In the eight months since Manigault Newman was fired, Trump has yet to appoint a single African-American to a senior White House role as either an assistant or a deputy assistant to the President.

Manigault Newman was the director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison and an assistant to the President for nearly a year until her firing last December. At the time, she was the only African-American in a senior White House role and earning the top White House staff salary of nearly $180,000.

"I was the only African-American at the table. If I left, which I did, when I left, there has been no new appointment of an African-American assistant to the President, which means that people are making decisions about us, without us," Manigault Newman said Sunday in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

'Focused on getting results'

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement to CNN on Monday that Trump's staff "is focused on getting results for all Americans."

"The President hires people to execute his policies and his staff is diverse in race, gender, religion and background. This administration is focused on getting results for all Americans -- and that's what it's done," Gidley said.

Trump, in fact, often brags about the decline in African-American unemployment during his administration. The African-American unemployment rate  hit a post-Great Recession peak of 16.8% in March 2010 . Since then, unemployment has dropped steadily for all Americans.

The White House declined on Monday to provide a list of White House officials who are black or members of other minority groups.

The lack of diversity also gained attention on Sunday when Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to the President, could not name a single African-American with an office in Trump's West Wing when pressed during an interview on Sunday.

Conway could only name Ja'Ron Smith, a policy adviser and special assistant to the President -- a notch below the title of deputy assistant to the President -- who works in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex.

Smith was the only black White House official at the table earlier this month when Trump met with a group of mostly black inner-city pastors at the White House.

"Mr. President, it's been an honor to serve you in this administration," Smith said during the event. "The things that you're doing under your leadership could drastically change situations and speak for people who can't speak for themselves. Each one of these leaders speak for a forgotten people around this country who have dealt with pain, regardless of who was President. And it's an opportunity for you to show your leadership to move things in a different direction."

'Deeply disturbing'

A lack of diversity in the Trump administration extends beyond the West Wing and into Trump's Cabinet, where Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is the only African-American.

The overwhelmingly white, male makeup of Trump's Cabinet stands in stark contrast to efforts over recent administrations to make the President's Cabinet more representative of the US population.

Trump, meanwhile, has stoked racial tensions in the US during his time in office. The President has blamed "both sides" after violence sparked last year by a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, privately referred to Haiti and some African nations as "sh**hole countries" and lambasted the protests led overwhelmingly by black NFL players.

Hilary Shelton, the director of the NAACP's Washington bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy, called the lack of diversity among Trump's top advisers "deeply disturbing" and said it fuels Trump's insensitivity on racial issues and hurts the policy process overall.

"It really is outrageous that such an important inner circle is not reflective of the great diversity of the people of the United States of America," Shelton said. "If you don't have those that are familiar with the diversity of communities that really make up this great United States of America, then you can make decisions that are extremely problematic."

Shelton noted that the lack of diversity in the Trump administration marks a backslide from previous administrations -- Republican and Democrat -- that have worked to boost staff diversity.

The people of color who served in top positions in those administrations also had roles that went beyond Manigault Newman's role handling outreach to the African-American community.

Several of President Barack Obama's top advisers were black, including senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and his UN ambassador and later national security adviser Susan Rice. Before Obama, President George W. Bush's two secretaries of state were black and one of them, Condoleezza Rice, also previously served as his national security adviser.

"There's no such thing as an issue that has no impact on every community that makes up our country," Shelton said. "We have to make sure there's a sensitivity to that diversity as we're crafting solutions."