By Annie Sweeney, Jeremy Gorner, Jason Meisner // Chicago Tribune
President Donald Trump responded enthusiastically Wednesday to a Cleveland-area minister's surprise comment that "top gang thugs" wanted to meet in Chicago to help reduce the city's gun violence.
"That's a great idea because Chicago is totally out of control," the president told the Rev. Darrell Scott at a Black History Month event at the White House.
But the idea was greeted with skepticism by Chicago anti-violence groups, which saw it as likely to fail and out of touch with longtime gang dynamics.
In an interview Thursday night with the Tribune, Scott, a strong Trump supporter, said a former Chicago gang member who knew of his ties to the president reached out asking for help with the violence. He said he hopes the president can attend the "sit-down" with gang members, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 15.
"The thing about Mr. Trump is that he is an attention magnet," Scott said. "His association will bring a lot of attention to it. A lot of it is going to be positive attention."
The pastor's comments at the White House meeting produced another perplexing moment in the president's continuing focus on Chicago's rampant gun violence.
At the morning meeting, Scott said that the gang leaders in Chicago had committed "to lower that body count" in return for added social programs from the federal government.
"If they're not going to solve the problem — and what you're doing is the right thing — then we're going to solve the problem for them because we're going to have to do something about Chicago," the president said. "Because what's happening in Chicago should not be happening in this country." MORE