President Trump warned evangelical leaders Monday that Democrats could overturn all the progress he’s made.
He also said some could even become violent in enforcing their new power.
According to audio surreptitiously captured by an attendee at the event in the State Dining Room at the White House and given to the New York Times, Trump said Democrats “will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they’ll do it quickly and violently.
“They will end everything immediately,” Trump said. “When you look at Antifa, and you look at some of these groups – these are violent people.”
Then, Trump warned the pastors of the consequences should Republicans lose control of Congress.
“If they don’t vote, we’re going to have a miserable two years,” he said. “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.”
Daily Beast Washington bureau chief Jackie Kucinich accused the president of fearmongering during a panel interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“Well, he certainly isn’t the first person to scare people to the polls,” Kucinich said. “And if he’s asking these, uh … reverends and whatnot to do that … it’s irresponsible to say that there’s going to be violence if Democrats take over. That’s not true; there’s no proof of that. But this isn’t a president that deals in facts. This won’t be the only time we see these sort of exaggerations in the 2018 midterms. We’re going to see this as a threat throughout the entire cycle.”
The president is “nudging pretty close to legit fascist rhetoric here,” Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo tweeted.
Jeffrey Toobin of CNN called Trump’s warning of violence coded racism.
“Let’s be clear also about what’s going on here,” Toobin said. “The theme here is, ‘I’m Donald Trump and I’ll protect you from the scary black people.”
Toobin then said Antifa, the group of fascist thugs that have been involved in violence from Washington, D.C., to Portland and who are almost entirely white, is “perceived as an African-American group,” according to HuffPost.
“This is about black versus white,” Toobin said on CNN. “This is about Donald Trump’s appeal to racism, and it just happens all the time. And we never say it, and we don’t say it enough for what it is, but that’s what’s going on here.”
This “blunt warning was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s attempts to use the specter of violence at the hands of his political opponents and to fan the flames of cultural divisions in the country,” the Times reported.
“In the wake of racial violence last year in Charlottesville, Va., Mr. Trump said there was ‘blame on both sides’ and equated liberal, anti-fascist protesters with Nazis and white supremacists.” It did not note that the violence embraced by both sides makes this an apt comparison.
Slate’s headline read: “Trump Privately Suggests Evangelical Leaders Break Law on Electioneering Because Democrats Will ‘Violently’ Overturn Policies.”
“President Trump used typically inflammatory language to warn evangelical leaders at a White House event Monday night of what GOP losses at the ballot box in November could mean for his administration and party,” Slate wrote.
“As a scare tactic, Trump mentioned Antifa – the sometimes violent anti-fascist activists – by name intentionally conflating them with the entirety of the Democratic Party. “
“The president also instructed the religious leaders to use their pulpits to push members of the churches to vote Republican in November, which would be a violation of the Johnson Amendment prohibiting tax-exempt organizations, namely churches and charities, from campaigning, directly or indirectly, on behalf of a candidate.”