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Trump Promises Black Voters A 'Platinum Plan' For Loans As He Bashes Biden

President Trump speaks about his campaign promises for Black voters at an event Friday in Atlanta.
Brendan Smialowski
AFP via Getty Images
President Trump speaks about his campaign promises for Black voters at an event Friday in Atlanta.

Updated at 4:30 ET

President Trump leaned into his economic record Friday as he attempted to attract Black voters with a pledge to try to secure more lending for African American business owners.

Trump unveiled what he called the "platinum plan" for Black economic empowerment at a campaign event in Atlanta. But during wide-ranging remarks, Trump spent more time telling people why they shouldn't vote for Democratic rival Joe Biden than he did describing his campaign pitch to African Americans.

"No one in politics today has done more to hurt the Black community than Joe Biden," Trump said at the ballroom event.

"Joe Biden should not be demanding your support; he should be begging for your forgiveness," he told supporters.

Ja'Ron Smith — a White House adviser who spoke to NPR in his personal capacity ahead of the event — said Trump's goal is to have the federal government invest in institutions that lend to Black businesses.

The campaign said in a news release that Trump proposes to increase lending through community development financial institutions and would aim to direct up to $40 billion in government funds to leverage as much as 10 times that amount through the private sector. That funding would need to be negotiated with Congress.

The campaign also envisions grants for microlending and organizations that can help Black entrepreneurs grow their businesses, Smith said.

"Today is historic because for the first time you have a Republican president and a Republican agenda that's focused on the economic empowerment of the Black community," Smith told NPR in an interview.

Ja'Ron Smith, a top Trump adviser, says Republicans are focused on economic empowerment issues for the Black community.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images
Getty Images
Ja'Ron Smith, a top Trump adviser, says Republicans are focused on economic empowerment issues for the Black community.

Trump won 8% of the Black vote in 2016. His campaign has opened field offices in predominantly Black communities in swing states as Trump tries to improve on that support. In a tight election, squeezing out a few more votes could make a difference.

The campaign faces an uphill battle. Polls show Black voters overwhelmingly support Biden and give Trump low marks for his job performance.

Biden discussed his economic plan for Black Americans earlier this week at an event in Charlotte, N.C., pledging to invest more money in historically Black colleges and universities and leverage $150 billion in new capital for Black-owned businesses.

Before the pandemic, Trump would often point to record low Black unemployment as one of the major achievements of his administration. But that argument is harder to make since the pandemic because the economic downturn has hit African Americans hard.

Even before the pandemic, when Black unemployment was at record low levels, it was still around twice the level of white unemployment.

Trump's plan also includes a proposal to make Juneteenth a federal holiday — and a proposal to enshrine a national database of police misconduct into law. Trump called for establishing the database in June after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Both these proposals would require action by Congress.

Since Floyd's death, Trump has made repeated calls for "law and order" in response to nationwide unrest over racial discrimination and systemic racial bias in police departments. Critics charge that Trump has inflamed tensions and has not addressed concerns voiced by Black voters about their treatment at the hands of the police.

Smith pushed back against these critiques.

"The president has talked about law and order with compassion," Smith said. "We want to be tough on those violent individuals that victimize people in the community."

Alana Wise contributed to this report.

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Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.