NEW YORK — As hastily as it was thrown together, it dissipated.
After months of work behind the scenes, the National Diversity Coalition for Trump announced that it would begin its operations on Monday with a press conference at Trump Tower. The group’s CEO, Pastor Darrell Scott, told NBC that Monday’s kick off would include a meeting with Trump at Trump Tower. But when about 60 enthusiastic members of the coalition from various parts of the United States gathered in the Trump Bar a few hours before the meeting was supposed to start, confusion reigned as to where, when, and how Trump would meet to address the group.
The group was born of Trump Organization Executive Vice President and Special Counsel Michael Cohen’s “vision" and includes a diverse group of people who call themselves members.
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“It’s beginning to grow legs,” Scott said. The diversity was something many in attendance touted, showing that Trump’s support reaches across racial and religious lines. Representatives from Arab Americans for Trump, Muslim Americans for Trump, Hispanic Patriots for Trump, and multiple black pastors are listed on the group’s freshly face-lifted website.
Stick-on name tags were filled out in Sharpie by coalition members, many of whom were gathered there to counter what they feel is an unfairly pushed media narrative that Trump is a racist. Multiple coalition members told NBC News that anyone who knows Trump can tell you he is not the bigot the press makes him out to be. They assured that Trump “loves” Hispanics – something he frequently says about himself on the campaign trail – and that his comments about temporarily banning Muslims from coming to the United States were taken out of context.
Dr. Steve Parson was motivated to be here by Trump’s economic message and how it can help the black business community. The pastor from Virginia told NBC News “we want to help [Trump], so he can help us help ourselves. We don’t need a hand out. We need his wisdom.”
Parson planned to present Trump with a mobilization plan to help him get “100 percent” of the minority vote. A former Romney supporter himself, Parson said he believes in Trump because “our country is literally going to hell.”
Other coalition members, like Cathy Campbell, felt a more spiritual calling to Trump. While waiting for the GOP frontrunner in the lobby of Trump Tower around 11 a.m., she explained: "A couple years ago, I awakened with the Lord saying, asking for a John Wayne-type president,” Campbell recalled. "And so I thought, alright, I like John Wayne, started thinking about John Wayne, characteristics of John Wayne. And then found out that there’s a John Wayne museum. And Donald Trump went to it and was endorsed by his daughter. And so it just kind of brought it back around to this is his time.”
Campbell, a New Yorker who also spends time in Virginia, plans to vote in New York this coming Tuesday and says she believes “the hand of God is on this” primary.
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Moments later Trump burst smiling from the golden elevators to wave to the crowd and gaggle of press that had convened for him, remarking upon the crowd size and greeting former “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault with a kiss on the cheek.
“You see all the women?” she remarked. Trump promised to be “back here in one hour” to speak with the group and pre-emptively thanked everyone for coming out. “This is so great. This is some turnout, huh?”
After Trump disappeared back into the elevator, Manigault joked that her former reality show boss does what he wants. Then, Secret Service began its sweep and screening of the press – and the increasing number of coalition members and revelers who had gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower – wanding each one by one before sending them down one of the escalators to the gathering area below.
Hispanic Patriots’ Dahlys Hamilton waited patiently for Trump’s remarks. A former Cruz supporter, she is now firmly for Trump. “He’s not a racist. If he were a racist, I’d be the first one against him,” she said.
Trump once again joined the group an hour later, as promised. Flanked by Scott, Cohen, Manigault, Sajid Tarar (founder and chairman of Muslim Americans for Trump) and several others, his remarks lasted less than two minutes. In them, he ticked down a list of campaign trail promises including strengthening the military, bringing back jobs, and New York values. Then he was back in the elevator. What was billed as a press conference seemed more of a photo op and dash.
Afterwards, many followed Trump to the elevator and waited to meet with him. One woman muttered that the time wasted with security sweeps had cut into the time that was previously allotted for the meeting with group members. Other senior members of the coalition later confirmed that the last minute location changes and the subsequent security sweeps and measures that followed had thrown the group off its original schedule.
Cohen, who is not affiliated with the Trump campaign, told NBC afterwards that the meeting was supposed to be on the 25th floor of Trump Tower but as the group’s numbers continued to grow they decided to move the larger group meeting downstairs, to a lower area of the lobby outside the Trump Restaurant. As for the smaller meeting, Cohen and Scott maintain that Trump met with “several” members of the coalition for a short meeting, but they assured it won’t be their last. Omarosa Manigault also confirmed to NBC that they did meet briefly, but wouldn’t say who else was in the room.
Manigault, who characterized the meeting as “good,” told NBC the meeting further evidenced how Trump “wants to learn” and “wants to listen” to those around him.
“He took a group of folks up who he wanted to connect with, he wanted to understand how he could connect with those particular communities.” She then added with a laugh that he “had to dash,” which explained the meeting’s brevity.
When passed on the street after the frenzy, Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski told NBC he didn’t know about the meeting. "I wasn’t involved.”