Why don't President Donald Trump's evangelical supporters care about his affair with Stormy Daniels?
If you ask Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor and Trump voter, you'll hear that evangelicals don't, in fact, care who the president has an affair with. He appeared on Fox News to say just that, claiming Trump's personal life is “totally irrelevant” as evangelicals support him for his “policies.”
“Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star. However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him,” Robert Jeffress, an evangelical adviser to Trump and pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, said yesterday.
He added: Evangelicals knew they weren’t voting for an altar boy when they voted for Donald Trump. We supported him because of his policies and his strong leadership.”
When questioned, Jeffress said evangelicals "understand" the concept of forgiveness:
Evangelicals understand the concept of sin and forgiveness. Look, we are all sinners, we all need forgiveness, that forgiveness is available through Christ for anyone that asks. Whether the president needs that forgiveness for this particular allegation, and whether he asked for it is between him, his family, and his God.
Trump's behavior is not a deterrent, continued Jeffress, who is a personal adviser to the president and serves on Evangelical Advisory Board. He suggested there’s pretty much nothing Trump can do to lose his support as long as he continues to deliver on his policies.
“I‘m his friend,” he said. “I will never walk away.”
Jeffress did not always support President Trump, however. He appeared at Trump rallies during the 2016 campaign, although he initially supported Dr. Ben Carson, whom Trump later appointed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Once it became clear that Trump would become the Republican nominee, he became one of his more vociferous defenders.
In an interview with The Christian Post in March 2016, for example, Jeffress said Republicans who choose not to support Trump are "fools":
I think the Bible has a word for people like that — it's fools. It is absolutely foolish to do anything that would allow Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States … at least Donald Trump has voiced a belief in a pro-life movement, he has at least talked about religious liberty as he did last Friday, you don't hear either things coming from the lips of Hillary Clinton. believe any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee … that person is being motivated by pride rather than principle and I think it would be a shame for people to allow Hillary Clinton four or eight years in the White House.
That same month, he appeared at a Trump rally to address criticisms from evangelicals that Trump is a "poser." These critics believe Trump does not represent "true Christian values" despite his popularity among disenchanted evangelical voters. Jeffress, for his part, left no doubt as to where he stands:
You know, one time when Ronald Reagan was running for president of the United States, the first time, he met with a group of evangelical leaders, and he said, although you can't endorse me, I want you to know I endorse you. And I have met — I have met with Mr. Trump on several occasions, and I can tell you from personal experience, if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States, we who are evangelical Christians are going to have a true friend in the White House. God bless Donald Trump!
In January, Jeffress offered a spirited defense of the president after a report that Trump had made disparagingly racist remarks about immigrants from Haiti and African nations during a meeting with Congressional leaders. (“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” the president asked, according to lawmakers who were present at the meeting.)
"Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment," Jeffress said at the time.
Jeffress's latest defense comes in light of a lawsuit filed by Stormy Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) which raises new questions about a payment she received from Trump attorney Michael Cohen as part of the non-disclosure agreement to keep her from discussing a sexual encounter with Trump back in 2006, while he was married to his current wife, Melania, and just a few months after Melania gave birth to their son, Barron.
The lawsuit filed by Daniels contends that Cohen initiated a “bogus arbitration” hearing against her without notifying her beforehand, and a copy of the restraining order against Daniels obtained by CNN confirms that the judge made a “one-party” ruling that did not require her to be notified.
Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, later appeared on "CBS This Morning," saying Daniels hopes to dispel some of the “misinformation” out there about the nondisclosure agreement and “set the record straight.” Her lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, says the nondisclosure agreement she signed is “legally null and void.” Trump himself never signed the agreement, the court filing alleges, meaning Daniels should be free to discuss her “intimate relationship” with him.
The document states:
Despite Mr. Trump’s failure to sign the Hush Agreement, Mr. Cohen proceeded to cause $130,000.00 to be wired to the trust account of Ms. Clifford’s attorney. He did so even though there was no legal agreement and thus no written nondisclosure agreement whereby Ms. Clifford was restricted from disclosing the truth about Mr. Trump.
Avenatti raised questions about Michael Cohen’s tactics as well. The NDA included in the court filing is between “Peggy Peterson” and “David Dennison.” “Peterson” is identified as Daniels, while the identity of “Dennison” is redacted. “Dennison” is “most certainly” an alias for Donald Trump, Avenatti notes.
“To conclude otherwise, you would have to conclude that Mr. Cohen, who represented Mr. Trump at the time, who’s admitted to the $130,000 payment, made the payment on behalf of some other party, some other individual, that went by that alias,” he said.
When asked about the comments Sanders made regarding the arbitration, Avenatti said, “President Trump hasn’t won anything relating to Ms. Clifford.”
“First of all, it does not appear as if he was even a party to the arbitration Ms. Sanders is referring to. How can you win something you’re not even a part of? Secondly, claiming that Mr. Trump ‘won’ at arbitration when there has been no hearing, no notice to Ms. Clifford, no opportunity given to her to respond and no decision on the merits is completely bogus.”