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Trump woos evangelicals at dinner date

Politics | At a White House event, the president worked to get out the Christian vote for November’s midterm elections
by Harvest Prude
Posted 8/30/18, 04:41 pm

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump hosted close to 100 evangelical leaders Monday night at the White House, where he boasted about religious liberty gains at home and abroad and successful pro-life legislation under his administration’s watch, while also stressing the importance of the evangelical vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

During the president’s official opening speech, he said that under his administration, “the attacks on the communities of faith are over.” He thanked the evangelical leaders for their support, adding, “But I really don’t feel guilty because I have given you a lot back, just about everything I promised.”

Trump cited actions like moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, proposing pro-life regulation to prevent taxpayer funding for abortions, and fighting religious persecution around the world, including opposing Pastor Andrew Brunson’s imprisonment in Turkey. He also pointed to a May 2017 executive order limiting the Johnson Amendment by discouraging the Internal Revenue Service from pursuing cases where a church endorses a candidate or gives a political donation. The Johnson Amendment prevents religious organizations from endorsing political candidates under the threat of losing their tax-exempt status.

The president later in the evening, according to audio obtained by The New York Times, drove home the importance of evangelicals voting. “I just ask you to go out and make sure all of your people vote,” he said. “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. … You’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got.” Trump said Democrats “will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they’ll do it quickly and violently.”

Asked Wednesday to clarify that remark, the president told reporters, “I just hope there won’t be violence. … If you look at what happens … there’s a lot of unnecessary violence all over the world, but also in this country. And I don’t want to see it.”

Attendees Monday night included pastors, evangelists, and advisers, including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham, and Pastor Paula White of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Fla. Vice President Mike Pence, Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson were also in attendance. During the dinner, at least 15 ministers and leaders expressed their support for Trump, the Christian Post reported.

After the event, some, like Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas, celebrated evangelical access to the president, while others responded to criticism for attending the event. Newly elected Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear defended his decision on Twitter: “I chose to attend in order to listen and meet other leaders and offer perspective where asked … but I’m just as committed as ever to decoupling the church from partisan politics, and my desire for the SBC remains what it always has been—promoting a culture in which the gospel is above all.”

Getty Images/Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP Getty Images/Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP A news photo that followers of Q think contains a hidden message

The truth is out there

An anonymous online entity called “Q,” who claims to have high-level clearance in the Trump administration, is the sole source of political truth, followers say, and nothing reported by the mainstream media can be trusted.

Lately, supporters of Q have been showing up in person at President Donald Trump’s rallies, and they’ve held small rallies of their own. One supporter, armed with an AR-15 rifle and ammunition, used an armored vehicle to block a bridge near the Hoover Dam in July. No one was injured in the incident.

Followers of Q, or QAnon, say a secret group of powerful bad guys in politics, business, media, agriculture, and entertainment are responsible for most of the world’s problems, from the Great Recession to ISIS. The bad guys include the Clinton, Bush, and Obama families and the CIA. Good guys such as Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan tried to overthrow the bad guys, and now President Donald Trump is close to completing the work, proclaims a pro-Q YouTube video.

Q is believed to be a close aide to the president, the president himself, or a combination of both. The anonymous user posts mysterious messages on 8chan, an online forum with very few rules, and followers start to “decode” Q’s posts. (Google banned 8chan from searches in 2015 due to the amount of child pornography on the site.)

Cheryl Sullenger, senior vice president for the pro-life organization Operation Rescue, told me she has been following Q since December and is convinced the shadowy entity is the real deal.

“I know it sounds a little bit complicated and it actually is,” she said. “A lot of this stuff, the messages are very cryptic because they can’t release anything that is classified information.”

Sullenger referenced a photo of an American flag draped between two fire trucks that appeared in the media after North Korea freed three hostages this May. The photo itself is real, and was made available to media outlets at the time by Getty Images (see above). But one of the trucks in the photo bears “Q74” in large white lettering. Q followers latched onto this as a clue, believing it was planted as a reference to the 74th post on a particular forum.

“So that would imply that Q had a hand in changing the number on the fire truck,” Sullenger said, citing research from others on 8chan. “Fire trucks are not numbered that way.”

The “mega-theory” might sound to outsiders like a worldwide game, an outgrowth of an internet generation where whistleblowers are heroes and everyone considers themselves investigative reporters.

“This is clearly just some guy messing with people,” wrote Will Sommer, an online journalist who critiques conservative media.

To followers, deciphering Q’s messages is anything but a game.

“This is serious,” Sullenger said. “This is about exposing people who want to kill our president.” —Laura Finch

Associated Press/Photo by Annie Rice Associated Press/Photo by Annie Rice Tom Perez

Delegate makeover

Democrats took action over the weekend to limit the role of party officials in choosing their presidential candidate. The largely symbolic move came amid concerns by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., about the party nomination process during the 2016 primaries.

The Democratic National Committee approved a package of reforms on Saturday that will prevent so-called superdelegates from voting in the first round of presidential nominee balloting at the convention if their votes would influence the outcome.

Democrats hope to prevent the appearance that party leaders have their thumbs on the scale and can potentially override the results of state primaries and caucuses.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez acknowledged the move was about making voters “feel like their voices are being heard,” but the party noted superdelegates had never actually swayed the vote for a presidential candidate.

Despite that, “the only way superdelegates have ever influenced our nominating process is by creating the perception that the votes of party insiders matter more than those of grassroots voters,” said New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley. “We must end this perception.”

State delegates to the Republican National Convention are bound to vote for the candidate who won their state primary or caucus.

Sanders supporters felt disenfranchised in 2016 as the party’s leadership lined up behind Hillary Clinton early in the primary season. In the end, Clinton secured enough support through primary and caucus victories to win the nomination, but leaks that showed then–party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had favored Clinton added to the perception among Sanders’ supporters that they had been marginalized.

Both Sanders and Clinton agreed ahead of the 2016 convention to reform the superdelegate system that gives votes to party leaders, elected officials, and others outside of the primary process. The DNC agreed to reduce the overall number of superdelegates while binding some to the results of votes in their states. A committee had been working to determine the role of the remaining superdelegates, issuing recommendations last year before the party’s rules committee took up the matter and put it to a vote of the full DNC.

Sanders welcomed the change, calling it “an important step forward in making the Democratic Party more open, democratic, and responsive to the input of ordinary Americans.”

Superdelegates made up 15 percent of the 4,763 Democratic delegates in 2016. —Anne K. Walters

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Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HarvestPrude.

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  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Sun, 09/02/2018 07:57 pm

    Rev. Greear's perspective is right.  We cannot be salt in the Earth if we boycott political gatherings with public figures who we mistrust.  However, we also must not allow public figures' policies to cloud our moral judgement.