In a secret recording taken after media left the White House’s “state dinner” for evangelicals on Monday night, President Donald Trump urged pastors to campaign for Republicans from the pulpit.
The recording by The New York Times depicts the president warning the group of about 100 evangelical Christian leaders that if their congregations don’t vote for GOP candidates in the November midterms, they’ll be “one election away from losing everything you’ve got.”
“I just ask you to go out and make sure all of your people vote,” Trump said at the dinner. “Because if they don’t — it’s Nov. 6 — 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.”
The Times noted that the president spent much of the time bragging about “getting rid of” the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 tax law barring religious organizations and other 501(c)3 tax-exempt groups from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
Though Trump signed an executive order in May 2017 meant to ease the restrictions of the Johnson Amendment and allow religious leaders to “speak their minds,” PolitiFact reported that his claim that he got rid of it is “mostly false.”
According to the report, the president used a stock market analogy to laud his supposed achievement.
“Maybe it’s why you are very plateaued. I hate to say it, if you were a stock, you’d be like, you’re very plateaued,” the president said, reportedly prompting laughter from his evangelical audience. “I really believe you’re plateaued because you can’t speak. They really have silenced you. But now you’re not silenced anymore.”
Trump reportedly went on to say that he knew religious leaders “like” him.