Minority advocates, Trump transition team hold closed-door meeting

Arturo Vargas, executive director of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said the meetings were all about “talking and listening to each other.” (Photo by Sabella Scalise/Cronkite News)

Leaders of some of many minority organizations leave the Republican National Committee offices after meeting with members of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team. (Photo by Sabella Scalise/Cronkite News)

Elroy Sailor, an adviser to the chairman of the Republican National Committee as well as the founder of a minority empowerment group, said the GOP has had a series of meetings with advocates. (Photo by Sabella Scalise/Cronkite News)

Spencer Overton, the president of Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said talking is “an important first step” for minority groups and the Trump transition team. (Photo by Sabella Scalise/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Leaders of about 20 minority advocacy organizations met with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team in a closed-door meeting Wednesday in what advocates said they hope was one of many meetings to come.

The off-the-record meeting at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington came one week after the elections and just days after a coalition of Latino organizations asked to meet with the president-elect to clear the air over heated rhetoric repeated throughout the campaign.

Groups in Wednesday’s meeting included African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American organizations representing a range of occupations from cops to educators to elected officials, all citing a need to move forward after an election that left many of them distressed.

“These are the individuals who are at the front lines of America’s challenges and they very much want to work with the next administration to make sure we can move this country forward,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).

“It begins with talking and listening to each other and that is what this day has been all about,” Vargas said.

While attendees agreed not to discuss details of what was discussed, Vargas and others appeared upbeat as they left the meeting.

Among those at the meeting were Coconino County Supervisor Elizabeth Archuleta, who was representing the NALEO board, and Coconino County Treasurer Sarah Benatar, who was representing the National Association of Hispanic County Officials. They declined to comment on the meeting.

-Cronkite News video by Sabella Scalise

Wednesday’s meeting followed a campaign in which Trump often made headlines with comments attacking immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and others. A coalition of Latino groups that met last week said they were willing to work with incoming Trump administration – but were also willing to fight any policies or rhetoric that threatened their communities.

Elroy Sailor, co-founder of the minority empowerment organization Insight America, said minority leaders are looking to continue a “spirit of inclusiveness” into the new administration.

“We’ve heard new models to solve old problems,” said Sailor, who also serves as senior adviser for RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “What we’ve heard today are solutions to problems that the administration, as well as the House and the Senate, will need to address.”

Sailor said Republican officials have been engaging in a “series of sustained meetings” with minority organizations since January, but that Wednesday’s meeting was a culmination “as well as a continuation of those dialogues.”

Spencer Overton, president of Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said that “just engaging in a productive conversation is an important first step.”

“I certainly think that we had an important first step here today and we’ll see how things develop,” Overton said, “but we’re certainly encouraged from the productive conversations we had today.”

Vargas said leaders still “continue to have questions” about how the Trump administration will put itself together on Inaugural Day, Jan. 20, but emphasized that minority organizations want to work closely with the president-elect.

“The campaign is over, the election is over and now it’s time to govern,” Vargas said. “And our membership stands ready to work with the new administration to identify people who can come and join the administration to be political appointees this administration and help move the country forward.”