The pool huddled outside the Roosevelt Room for around 10 minutes before being allowed inside at 9:46 a.m. The president's guests were seat around the table, with others along the back wall. (The White House promises a full list of attendees soon.) POTUS - wearing a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie - entered at 9:52 a.m., along with Vice President Mike Pence, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, senior advisor Jared Kushner and aide Omarosa Manigault. President Trump began shaking hands with some of the attendees, who are here for a presidential "listening session" to mark the start of Black History Month.
Highlights of POTUS comments about his plans to work with the African-American community in a moment. First, some newsy highlights of the 12 minutes the Pool was allowed to stay in the room:
- On violence in Chicago: President Trump called the situation there "totally out of control." Upon one attendee (more details to come) informing him that gang leaders want to sit down and talk about "how to reduce that body count," POTUS said if those involved in the violence - and, presumably, city officials - don't take steps curb the violence, "we'll solve the problem for them."
- On his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court: Trump predicted Gorsuch will be "approved very, very quickly." He called the nominee a "great man," adding he believes Gorsuch will be a "great, great justice."
- On the state of America's inner cities: "Right now, it's terrible." He vowed to work with stakeholders to improve wages and reduce violence in inner cities, saying his administration would do so "big league." He turned to Ben Carson and said that is something his HHS secretary nominee would be working on.
- On the African-American vote: POTUS trumpeted his performance with black voters, and said he wants to take that "to new levels" next time he faces voters.
- On the media: Trump - using the same language as his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, called most media outlets the "opposition party." He singled out CNN, calling it "fake news" and telling those around the table he does not watch the network. Most of his guests laughed. On the state of the news media, Trump described it as a "sad situation," saying most media outlets "really have to straighten out their act." He glanced toward Pool members several times while criticizing their chosen profession.
- On Black History Month: POTUS said he is glad there is now a Smithsonian museum on the National Mall dedicated to the history of the African-American community, which he honored for its collective "sacrifice." He said his administration will "be honoring it more."
Partial transcript of the above highlights to come, as well as a full list of attendees when White House shares with the Pool.