First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress deserves some credit. Motivations, politics and decency aside, he picked the right horse way back in the summer of 2015 when he decided to back then-candidate Donald Trump's nascent presidential campaign.
For his trouble — Jeffress frequently worked "Make America Great Again" into invocations and Trump rallies and shows up to lay hands on the president whenever the news calls for that sort of thing — the pastor has achieved a kind of celebrity. He's on Fox News almost weekly and gets exponentially more news attention than he did in the good old days, back when he was accusing President Barack Obama of paving the way for the Antichrist or proclaiming that the Catholic Church was an example of the genius of Satan.
Jeffress has also carved out a niche as the president's personal excuse Rolodex.
This week, as the water in which the president's political future sits begins to simmer, if not boil, Jeffress has been back in action. Monday, he attended a special dinner for Trump's evangelical supporters at the White House before making the rounds again on Trump's behalf.
Starting with two examples from this week, here are Jeffress' best, or worst, excuses for the president:
1. Jeffress explains why evangelical support for Trump isn't wavering, despite Trump's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen admitting in federal court that Trump was aware of and helped direct payments before the 2016 election to two women with whom he had affairs.
“Well, it’s really not that hard to figure out when you realize he is the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-conservative judiciary in history, and that includes either Bush or Ronald Reagan. I think that is why evangelicals remain committed to this president and they are not going to turn away from him soon,” Jeffress told Fox News Monday night after the meeting. "We have to understand these are still allegations against the president, so I’m not going to judge the president on these things. But even if they were true, some of these allegations, I mean, obviously, we don’t support extramarital affairs, we don’t support hush-money payments, but what we do support are these president’s excellent policies."
2. Trump's warnings about leftist violence, should Democrats win in November's midterm elections, were metaphorical, according to Jeffress.
"He was simply describing how quickly his policies that evangelicals and other conservatives have so enthusiastically supported could be undone with a Democrat congress," Jeffress said in a statment to the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Here, for the record, is what Trump said:
"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."
Wednesday, Trump stood by his remarks after being asked what he meant by violence.
"If you look at what happens ... there's a lot of unnecessary violence all over the world, but also in this country. And I don't want to see it," Trump said.
3. Jeffress justifies Trump's directive to separate children from their families at the border earlier this year.
"I think the president is willing to sit down with the Democrats and negotiate a way to protect our country and, at the same time, keep families together. I believe the scenes of children being separated from their parents, those pictures are gut-wrenching," Jeffress told the Observer in June. "Equally gut-wrenching is thinking about the child that was Kate Steinle, who was murdered by an illegal immigrant, being separated forever from her parents. I think there has to be a balance here.
"Any American who commits a crime is going to be separated from his or her child," Jeffress went on. "You don't send children to jail with their parents in America, so I'm not sure why the only criminals who would get a pass on that policy would be illegal immigrants."
4. Those comments from Trump about "shit-hole countries"? Jeffress is good with them. Those countries are shit-holes, after all.
"Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment. As individual Christians, we have a biblical responsibility to place the needs of others above our own, but as commander in chief, President Trump has the constitutional responsibility to place the interests of our nation above the needs of other countries," Jeffress said, again in a statement to the Christian Broadcasting Network. "I'm grateful we have a president like Donald Trump who clearly understands that distinction and has the courage to protect the well-being of our nation."
5. Jeffress responds to Trump's alleged affair with Stormy Daniels by slurring conservative saint Ronald Reagan.
"The reason we supported President Reagan was not because we were supporting womanizing or divorce," Jeffress told Fox News' Ed Henry. "We supported his policies."
6. The pastor invents an 11th Commandment, just for the president.
"Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star," he said. "However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him."
7. Grabbing women by their genitals without permission: bad for Sunday school teachers, fine for the leader of the free world.
“I moderated a meeting between Mr. Trump and religious leaders, and I said, with Trump seated to my left, ‘Look, I might not choose this man to be a Sunday school teacher in my church, but that's not what this election is about.’ It's about choosing the best leader to reverse the downward spiral of the nation,” Jeffress said, according to reporting in 2016 from The Daily Beast.
8. Jeffress says Trump has God's OK to bomb North Korea.
"In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un," Jeffress told CBN News in August 2017, after the president threatened to rain "fire and fury" on the country. "I’m heartened to see that our president — contrary to what we’ve seen with past administrations who have taken, at best, a sheepish stance toward dictators and oppressors — will not tolerate any threat against the American people."
9. The border wall, too, is just God's will.
"The first step of rebuilding the nation was the building of a great wall," Jeffress said in a sermon given the week of Trump's inauguration at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, according to The Washington Post. "God instructed Nehemiah to build a wall around Jerusalem to protect its citizens from enemy attack. You see, God is NOT against building walls!"
10. After Trump called NFL players who kneel during the national anthem "sons of bitches," Jeffress said the players were lucky they didn't live somewhere where they'd be shot for their protests.
"These players ought to be thanking God that they live in a country where they're not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they're also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking the knee like they would be in North Korea," the pastor told Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt. "And I think tens of millions of Americans agree with President Trump when he says they ought to be called out for this."
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