Just three weeks before the election, Donald Trump's Asian Pacific American advisory committee met Tuesday night for the very first time in Las Vegas — but the GOP nominee himself was a no-show, according to one of the members who attended.
The meeting follows a survey released in early October that showed Trump trailing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 41 points among registered Asian-American voters. The meeting was also a day before the third and final presidential debate, also to be held in Las Vegas.
"I wish this conversation had been taking place a little earlier, but I understand the heavy schedule and how tough the 2016 campaign is," committee member Cliff Li, who is the executive director of the National Committee of Asian American Republicans, told NBC News ahead of the meeting.
Both major parties have made efforts this election season to woo Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
In the battleground state of Nevada, AAPIs account for around nine percent of eligible voters in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.
The goal of the committee was originally to meet with Trump and Pence to discuss AAPI concerns about education, employment, and the economy.
Trump appeared earlier in the day at two campaign rallies in Colorado, while his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, attended events in North Carolina. Trump will square off against Clinton Wednesday night in their final televised debate, to be held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
A message left with the Trump campaign about why the candidate did not attend the meeting was not immediately returned.
At least 11 members who were on the committee list when it was announced in September were not on Tuesday's attendee roster. That included former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao — the first Asian-American woman appointed to a president's cabinet — and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who spoke on Trump's behalf at the 2016 Presidential Election Forum, hosted by Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote and the Asian American Journalists Association.
Chao, who served two terms under President George W. Bush, is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank where Chao serves as a distinguished fellow, did not immediately respond to an email Wednesday morning seeking comment. An email sent to Reyes was also not immediately returned.
The APA advisory committee was formally announced on Sept. 25, but was actually formed sometime in July, Trump campaign coalitions advisor Jason Chung told NBC News in September. It includes elected, appointed, and grassroots leaders from a diverse cross-section of AAPI groups and is co-chaired by Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo and Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres.
Clinton launched her own AAPI Leadership Council in January.
Asked in September why the Trump campaign waited a little more than a month before the election to announce the advisory committee, Chung said at the time, "We're trying to highlight Mr. Trump's record and his accomplishments and what he wants to do for the American people. What better way than to do that right before the [first] debate, when millions of Americans will be tuning in."
Had Trump attended Tuesday evening, Li said before the meeting that he would've told him he applauds his "new civil rights agenda," which the candidate discussed while speaking at a black church in Detroit, Michigan, on Sept. 3. At that event, Trump told the audience America needs an agenda "for our times" that ensures better education and good jobs. Li said it's a platform that resonates with many Asian Americans.
Li did add that he wishes Trump could spend less time on the personal attacks leveled against him and more time on policy issues.
"Our Asian-American community is ready to provide," Li said. "Hopefully he can be a champion on that. But I understand, he has his hands full."Comment >>