President Donald Trump and religious leaders gathered at a DC hotel this morning for the National Prayer Breakfast. The other honored guests? A large delegation of Russian politicians and business leaders.
Despite the ongoing investigation into the administration’s ties to the former communist country, including allegations of collusion to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump and his far right friends welcomed the Russian delegation with open arms.
Three times as many Russian guests were invited this year. Approximately 60 people were expected to attend out of over 3,000 guests.
“It’s a very unique situation, because despite all these difficulties we have (in relations with the US), the quota for Russians is very high this year,” Aleksandr Zharkov, a Russian official said. “It is a sin not to use any platform possible for negotiations between different layers of society.”
In pursuit of political power, the evangelical religious right has embraced their former foe and a President who has publicly admitted to sexually assaulting women, mocked disabled people, and persecuted immigrants.
After it was exposed that Trump had an affair with a porn star shortly after he married his third wife, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins infamously gave Trump “a mulligan,” saying the President’s capitulations to evangelical’s demands was more important than his morals. Perkins has also been one of the President’s most ardent defenders as Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigates the campaign’s ties to Russian operatives.
During the President’s speech, he touted “religious liberty” frequently – a nod to the religious right’s demands for a licence to discriminate against women and LGBT people. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have made the issue a large part of their nonstop attacks on the civil rights of minorities.
“America will flourish, as long as our liberty, and in particular our religious liberty, is allowed to flourish,” he said at one point during his speech.
Yesterday it was revealed that Jeff Sessions is installing ‘religious freedom’ czars in every U.S. Attorney’s office. The Department of Health and Human Services has set up a special office under their civil rights division meant to allow healthcare workers the right to discriminate if they claim a religious exemption.
At last year’s event, Trump promised to get rid of the Johnson Amendment, a law that forbid churches from endorsing political candidates and donating to their campaigns.