At a summit of evangelical leaders, Trump warned of dire consequences if the Democratic party reclaims control of Congress in the November elections.
“This November 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment. It’s a referendum on so much,” Trump told an audience of pastors and other Christian leaders in the State Dining Room.
“It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence. When you look at Antifa — these are violent people,” Trump said.
“You have tremendous power. You were saying, in this room, you have people who preach to almost 200 million people. Depending on which Sunday we’re talking about.”
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) August 28, 2018
Trump’s message to evangelical leaders
The event was supposed to be free of media but a recording of Trump’s comments quickly leaked.
Trump also told the crowd he repealed the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 provision of the US Tax Code which provides that churches and charities “are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
“Now one of the things I’m most proud of is getting rid of the Johnson Amendment,” the president said. “That was a disaster for you.”
The law is still on the books however.
. @realDonaldTrump You warned the evangelicals that if Dems take over Congress in the midterms: “They will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently. And violently. There’s violence.” Was that a worry, warning or wish? https://t.co/TekxpyjroJ
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) August 28, 2018
Trump’s warning of violence condemnded as “irresponsible”
Speaking on CNN, Jackie Kucinich, Washington Bureau Chief for The Daily Beast, said the comments were irresponsible. “To say that there’s going to be violence if the Democrats take over – that’s not true, there’s no proof of that. But this isn’t a President that deals in facts.”
Trump also urged the religious leaders to use their influence to ensure “all of your people vote” for the Republican party in November.
“You’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got,” he reportedly said.
At time of writing, the White House had not responded to media requests to clarify who Trump was talking about when he said “these are violent people”.
Data journalism site FiveThirtyEight predicts the Democrats have a 74.3% chance of winning control of the house in the mid-term elections.