Evangelical Christian leaders are hoping to meet with Donald Trump to raise mounting concerns about the drama surrounding his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels and claims levelled at the president by other women.
The billionaire businessman secured huge support from white Christians in the 2016 election, despite his reputation as a thrice-married casino magnate and the Access Hollywood affair in which he was caught on video bragging about sexually assaulting women. Even though Mr Trump was not personally seen as coming from a strong faith background, he secured the backing of 80 per cent of white evangelicals, compared to just 16 per cent for Hillary Clinton.
Yet a report suggests several evangelical Christian leaders are planning to meet with Mr Trump later this summer. According to a report on NPR that cited our unidentified sources, the faith leaders are hoping they will see the President on June 19 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington to discuss various concerns with him.
One leader of a faith-based ministry said of the allegation Mr Trump’s lawyer paid Ms Daniels $130,000 to buy her silence ahead of the 2016 election: “We’re very concerned.”
The source said the combination of the allegations swirling about an alleged decade-old relationship with Ms Daniels, along with rhetoric from the president that many find divisive, had spread concern that evangelicals may be less enthusiastic about turning out to vote in November’s midterms.
Another source said the June meeting would be a chance for evangelical leaders to seek reassurance from Mr Trump and to talk about how to mobilise conservatives. “Let’s reconvene and lets see what we can do to encourage enthusiasm – beyond Trump, so to speak,” the source said.
Ralph Reed, best known as the head of the so-called Christian Coalition during the 1999s and currently chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, will among those religious leaders meeting with Mr Trump if it proceeds.
He said he doubted the controversy surrounding Ms Daniels would erode turn-out. Yet he he said if it did, Republicans could suffer. “If these folks don’t turn out in record numbers in 2018, it’s going to be a long night for Republicans,” he said.
Mr Trump this meet referred to the issue for the first time this week when he said he had no prior knowledge of the payment to Ms Daniels made by his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One flying back from a trip to West Virginia, Mr Trump was asked if he knew about the payment. He replied: “No”.
Mr Trump also said he did not know why Mr Cohen had made the payment. He said: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”
Asked about the reported planned meeting, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters, said: “We have no scheduling update at this time.”
Johnnie Moore, who serves as an informal evangelical adviser to Mr Trump, denied the meeting – which he said was still at a very early stage – was being held to discuss Ms Daniels, but rather to focus on policy priorities for evangelical groups.
He said that with Mr Trump having secured the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, having sought to push back legislation that prevents individuals refusing to provide services based on their religious beliefs and his Attorney General declaring the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not provide special protection to transgender people, most evangelicals would score Mr Trump’s first 15 months highly.
“Evangelicals are very focussed on the issues,’ he told The Independent. “They have a way of not being distracted by what the media may be talking about every day.”
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