President Trump praised the contributions of African-Americans to the United States — and managed to get in some partisan shots — at the historically black Benedict College in South Carolina Friday. The president made the comments in an address for the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum, a conference aimed at building on the gains made from the administration-backed First Step Act.
"The Democratic policies have let African-Americans down and taken them for granted," Mr. Trump said in his speech. "And they have, they've taken African-American communities for granted. And I promise you that Republicans will never ever do that, we're going to keep fighting for you and we're fighting hard."
Mr. Trump did take a moment at the outset of his speech to mention the late Elijah Cummings, whose funeral service in Baltimore Friday included eulogies by former President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
As Mr. Trump took the stage, he was awarded the Bipartisan Justice Award by Matthew Charles, who was freed from prison early by the First Step Act the president pushed to pass.
"I would not be a free man today if Donald J. Trump had not supported and signed the First Step Act," Charles told the crowd.
The president's presence raised some eyebrows. State-based outlets reported that Democratic candidates felt "blindsided" by the decision, and only a handful of students were given tickets for the speech, a speech attended by administration officials and others supportive of the president's agenda. Benedict College spokeswoman Kymm Hunter told the White House press pool nine students were confirmed to attend, although two had ROTC training, so seven attended the president's remarks.
In his speech, Mr. Trump decried the billions the U.S. spends on wars in the Middle East, saying the U.S. could afford to pay for the tuition of every student in the inner city with the money it uses on those wars each year.
"After years of rebuilding foreign countries, we are finally rebuilding our country, renewing our cities," the president told his crowd.
The president also claimed his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump has created "14 million jobs," although it's unclear where he got that figure or how his daughter was responsible for the creation of any of those jobs.
The weekend-long event — co-hosted by Benedict and the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center — focuses the next steps that should be taken to improve criminal justice reform after the passage of The First Step Act last year.