U.S. President Donald Trump said the government’s “attacks on communities of faith” are over when he hosted a dinner celebrating evangelical Christian leaders at the White House.
In audio obtained by NBC News, Trump warned Democrats “will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they’ll do it quickly and violently, and violently. There’s violence. When you look at antifa and you look at some of these group, these are violent people.”
“If they don’t vote, we’re going to have a miserable two years and we’re going to have, frankly, a very hard period of time because then it just gets to be one election — you’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got,” Trump added.
He used the threat of violence to ask the faith leaders to urge their followers to vote for Republicans in November. Trump's remarks seemingly ask the leaders to violate the Johnson Amendment which bans religious leaders, whose institutions are 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
During the meeting Trump falsely claimed, "Now one of the things I'm most proud of is getting rid of the Johnson Amendment. That was a disaster for you." Trump did a sign an executive order in May of 2017 which eased the restrictions of the Johnson Amendment, but he did not repeal it as only Congress has that power.
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CNN's Jeffrey Toobin weighed in during a discussion of Trump's controversial remark saying, "Let’s be clear also about what’s going on here. The theme here is, ‘I’m Donald Trump and I’ll protect you from the scary black people,’” Toobin said on CNN on Tuesday.
Trump boasted that the government in recent years has tried to undermine religious freedom, but those days are over.
He’s pointing to efforts by his administration to secure the release of imprisoned pastors and limit federal funding for abortion providers.
Among those attending are megachurch Pastor Paula White and the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Ralph Reed.
Trump has long pledged to defend the religious rights of the conservative Christians who helped propel him to power.
Trump tells the evangelical leaders their support “has been incredible,” but says he doesn’t don’t feel guilty “because I have given you a lot back.”
The Associated Press contributed to the report