If there was any doubt that the religious right had completely bowed down to Donald Trump, it was erased in January–a little over a year after Trump took office. By then, the scandal surrounding Trump’s alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels in 2007 was already coming to a boil. But that didn’t matter to Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. He famously declared that he and his fellow fundies would give Trump a “mulligan” for that affair and his other sins–as long as he continued giving them what they wanted.
It initially looked like the mulligan had ended on Friday morning, when NPR reported that a number of evangelicals were planning to sit down with Trump sometime in June. Reportedly, a number of leaders were concerned that the Daniels affair, along with other aspects of Trump’s “tone and personal life,” could potentially make social conservatives stay home in November.
The timing of this announcement was critical. After all, the story broke less than 24 hours after Trump claimed that he had no knowledge of the $130,000 payment to Daniels that was “facilitated” by his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen. In case you missed that, watch here, via The Associated Press.
There was no way that this could end well for Trump. Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, let it be known that he wants to depose Trump–and if it turns out Trump is lying about being in the dark about that payment, he risks perjuring himself. But if he really didn’t know about it, Cohen’s legal career is on life support. Moreover, if Trump didn’t know about the agreement, it legally doesn’t exist.
Soon after this story broke, Johnnie Moore, the de facto spokesman for Trump’s evangelical advisory board, tripped all over himself to let it be known that there were no plans to have a frank discussion with Trump about his behavior. He found a ready ear in David Brody, the chief White House correspondent for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network.
Even before then, People for the American Way senior fellow Peter Montgomery suspected that this meeting would be a love-in.
Soon afterward, Perkins himself confirmed that the planned summer gathering would indeed be a love-in. He told Fox News Radio’s Todd Starnes that he is helping organize the meeting–and a confrontation with Trump will not be on the agenda. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Perkins told Starnes that the summer gathering would simply be a “follow-up” to the “conversation” Trump had with a number of religious right leaders in June 2016. He made clear that this meeting would “have nothing to do with the controversy of Stormy Daniels (or) Russia.” Rather, it would be a chance to let the religious right’s followers know that Trump “is actually keeping his promises that he made two years ago.”
Perkins went on to say that Trump’s agenda is at risk because of the prospect of social conservatives staying home in November. He said this meeting is intended to stress “the importance of conservatives, evangelicals, Christians being involved in the process.”
So they’re not concerned about the effort to hush up the Daniels affair involving a campaign finance violation at best and a rogue lawyer at worst? And they’re not concerned about the prospect that, at best, Trump fostered an environment in which it was acceptable for senior campaign aides to collude with Russia? There is no longer any doubt–the religious right has jumped the shark.
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