Trump Aide Ja’Ron Smith, Highest-Ranking Black Staffer, Departs

The highest-ranking Black person on Donald Trump’s White House staff, Ja’Ron Smith, has left his job.

Smith was a deputy assistant to the president and worked with senior adviser Jared Kushner. His departure had been long planned, and wasn’t dependent on Trump winning a second term, according to people familiar with the matter. He’ll be taking a job at a nonprofit in the coming weeks, they said. Smith has a growing family, with twins expected.

Smith confirmed his departure in a statement on Twitter. “I am proud to say promises made, promises kept,” Smith tweeted Friday afternoon. “In four years, President Trump has delivered for Black America,” with metrics including record-low unemployment, Smith said.

He added: “Keep fighting, Mr. President.”

Smith acted as a liaison between Trump and the Black community, working on issues including funding for historically Black colleges and universities and the administration’s criminal sentencing overhaul efforts. He helped write a Trump executive order on policing after protests over the death of Floyd George, an unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis police.

In meetings with minority groups, Trump has often credited Smith.

“I want to just call out Ja’Ron Smith,” Trump said in May at a roundtable event in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with Black leaders. “He’s been here for -- with me, like, from the beginning. He’s not a shy man, but he’s a very capable man.”

One of his most important roles was to build support for Trump in the Black and Hispanic communities, in the face of charges from critics that the administration has sown divisions between ethnic groups for political purposes. Tuesday’s election results suggested that Trump got larger slivers of minority voters than previous Republican candidates.

Smith was among a number of prominent Black men invited to speak at the Republican National Convention in August, as Trump simultaneously sought to appeal to that constituency while criticizing protests over George’s death and promising U.S. suburbanites he would keep low-income housing out of their neighborhoods.

“Every issue important to Black communities has been a priority for him. Prison reform, rebuilding broken families, bringing jobs back to America, jobs in Cleveland, jobs in Detroit, jobs in Milwaukee,” Smith said of Trump in his convention speech.

After Kushner was criticized last month for saying in a television interview that Black people have to “want to be successful,” Smith issued a tweet in support of the president’s son-in-law.

“It’s been an honor to serve with Jared Kushner, a man who has been a huge advocate for the issues that impact Black America....First Step Act, Opportunity Zones, Access to Capital, USMCA, and jobs in the Black community....I will always stand with you Brother!!!” he said.

He also worked on Trump’s so-called “Platinum Plan” for Black America, which was later endorsed by the rapper Ice Cube -- an effort by the Trump campaign to make inroads with a traditional Democratic constituency.

“It’s been the honor of a lifetime to serve President Donald J. Trump,” Smith said in his statement Friday.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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