When President Trump signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill on Friday, he zeroed in on a tiny sliver of it, suggesting that he might disregard $20 million in funding for loan subsidies and other aid to historically black universities.
Two nights later, after a storm of criticism, the White House walked back the threat in a statement that declared the president’s “unwavering support” for such schools.
But the two days in between left some African-American educators feeling used, many black politicians enraged and some demanding that Trump back his “unwavering support” with a show of budgetary support.
It also, once again, revealed a White House where one team does not necessarily know what another team is up to.
“I worked to make sure there was clarity because I observed that there was feedback and some were misconstruing the signing statement,” Omarosa Manigault, a close aide tTrump, said in an interview on Monday.
Manigault headed Mr. Trump’s outreach to black voters during his presidential campaign and had publicly promised that his budget would protect historically black colleges and universities.
The Friday signing statement hit hard because in February, he had invited dozens of presidents from historically black universities to visit him in the Oval Office while he signed an executive order that moved an initiative to support such schools from the Education Department into the White House.
That was followed by Manigault’s open boast that while cuts in the president’s budget would be deep, black higher education was safe.
She called Trump’s statement on Friday “offensive” and said she is worried that he is signalling to the schools that he has the power to make life difficult for them.
Trump’s suggestion that he might disregard the aid provision was made in a signing statement, an official document laying out his interpretation of the new statutes created by a bill.
In it, he suggested that directing government spending to universities associated with a particular race was an unconstitutional infringement of people’s due process rights.
That language invoked the view, held by some conservatives, which affirmative action-style programs amount to discrimination against whites.
But it was not clear whether the White House was saying the executive branch would refuse to hand the universities the money that Congress had appropriated for them, or was merely gesturing to that view.
Source: New York Times