Winans Jr. meets with Trump at White House on prison reform

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
President Donald Trump points up to heaven as he speaks during a meeting with inner city pastors in the Cabinet Room of the White House Wednesday.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Marvin Winans Jr. is not a pastor affiliated with his father’s church in Detroit and that Bishop Andrew Merritt had been scheduled to attend. The White House provided incorrect information about those who attended the event. 

.Washington — A member of Detroit's famed Winans family met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday with a group of pastors discussing prison reform, the White House said. 

Marvin Winans Jr., a Detroit native who is part of the musical Winans family, was in the group of 17 urban pastors. Bishop Andrew Merritt of Straight Gate International Church in Detroit was scheduled to attend but couldn't make it, the White House later clarified.

"Throughout our history, America’s churches and religious leaders have called for change and inspired us to care for and bring hope back to those in need. So many people in need," Trump said in opening remarks at a roundtable discussion in the Cabinet Room. 

"And these are the people who — they do a job, and it’s largely unrecognized, which is something they don’t even care about, frankly. They just want to take care of people."  

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with inner city pastors in the Cabinet Room of the White House Wednesday.

Trump touted the Republican tax reform bill, regulatory rollbacks, the promotion of American manufacturing and what he called the White House’s “bold workforce initiative,” with over 100 companies pledging to train and retrain over 4 million Americans.

“We have increased and created 3.7 million more jobs since Election Day. African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates have reached the lowest levels in recorded history,” Trump said.

The president also highlighted son-in-law adviser Jared Kushner’s efforts on prison reform, saying it had become Kushner's No. one priority.

“Who would have thought? Who would have thought?” Trump said of that development.

Kushner said his initiative has run into a "little bit of a problem of politics" in Congress.

So he reached out to pastors to get the word out in communities "to let Washington know that making progress on this issue is more important than whatever political differences people may have," Kushner said. 

Trump also said that, given the good state of the economy, growing numbers of former prisoners are being hired by American companies.

"For the first time probably — I think I can say ever — they're getting a break," Trump said. 

"And I have to tell you, the people who are hiring prisoners, and you've heard me say it, they're loving them. And I don't mean in every case but in a big percentage of cases, they are loving them."

Trump asked the pastors to share their thoughts, which elicited  a bevy of compliments about the president’s leadership and his commitment to faith-based initiatives, according to the pool report.

Pastors also thanked him for re-opening steel mills and working on re-entry programs for prisoners.

"It's an honor to be here," Winans told Trump, saying he thought of his late grandfather who raised 10 children in inner-city Detroit. 

"When you were speaking, you talked about how important faith was to community and how it helps the family," Winans said.

"My grandfather did that, working odd jobs — was a taxi driver, he cut hair, he did everything possible, but he also had them in church and he kept them together. ... Our family was able to do things a lot of families weren't able to do without the assistance of having faith and church." 

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with inner city pastors in the Cabinet Room of the White House on August 1, 2018 in Washington, DC.