President Donald Trump listens to evangelist and pastor Paula White as she leads the prayer during a dinner for evangelical leadership in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on August 27, 2018.(Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA/TNS)
Photo: Olivier Douliery/TNS
Photo: Olivier Douliery/TNS

The Jolt: Ralph Reed says if Donald Trump loses, Christians ‘will deserve everything we get’

In governmental parlance, a “whip” is the figure in a legislative body who is assigned the task of maintaining party discipline, whether through carrot, stick – or in this instance, brimstone.

We have spoken of the attachment that conservative Christian evangelicals have for President Donald Trump. It is not a natural fit, and sometimes requires encouragement.

Earlier this week, Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, submitted to a friendly podcast interview by Steve Strang, founder of Charisma magazine. After detailing the favors that Trump has done for the Christian Right – U.S. Supreme Court picks, dumping the Iran nuclear treaty, etc. – Reed got down to his duties as Trump’s evangelical whip. He brought the brimstone:

“If the Christian community doesn’t rise up like it never has in modern political history, and if we allow through our inaction, the left to remove this man from the Oval Office, then we will deserve everything that we get. And if they get the White House back, it will be open season on Christian ministries, on churches, the IRS will be able to persecute those faith-based organizations again.

“They will – under Obamacare – be able to force them to pay for abortion again. They will be able to sue the Little Sisters of the Poor and drag God-fearing nuns into federal court again to make them pay for abortion. That’s what will happen. And if we don’t turn out and vote in the biggest numbers ever, then we deserve it to happen.”

***

Word that President Donald Trump will arrive in Atlanta on Air Force One on Friday with U.S. Rep. Doug Collins in tow has sparked a frenzy of rumors in Georgia political circles that the Gainesville Republican will be Gov. Brian Kemp’s pick for U.S. Senate.

Collins remains one of the best-known contenders for the office, but unless there’s a drastic change of plans, we don’t expect Kemp to announce his appointment in time for Trump’s visit.

Yet that might not stop the president from dropping a hint about who he favors -- increasing the pressure on Kemp.

As the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Collins has been one of Trump’s top defenders in Congress -- though that role has been diminished by the shift of the impeachment inquiry to the House Intelligence Committee.

Last month, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., headlined a fundraiser that raised about $300,000 for Collins and called him “the kind of fighter we need in the Senate.”

At the same time, the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is urging Kemp to appoint Jason Anavitarte, a Paulding County school board member and prominent member of the Latino community, to that coveted seat.

***

Meanwhile, President Trump’s critics plan to make his one-day trip to Atlanta as uncomfortable as possible. One group is planning his “biggest UNwelcome yet” to start at Centennial Park at 2 p.m. Friday, just before he’s set to speak at the Georgia World Congress Center to a group of African-American supporters.

Senate candidate Jon Ossoff is spoofing Trump’s invite to announce his own counter-programming event: A happy hour on Friday evening at Manuel’s Tavern, the hangout for cops, journalists and politicos. 

***

The lack of African-American support for Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg has led to speculation that his sexuality is somewhat to blame.

The New York Times looked at the South Bend, Ind., mayor’s dilemma late last month. This weekend, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said in a CNN interview that Buttigieg’s status as a gay man is a concern among older voters. (U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, another presidential contender, quickly pushed back against what she described as a false trope that black people are more homophobic than other groups.)

Our AJC colleague Shelia Poole dug into the issue as well, focusing on comments from a prominent black Atlanta pastor, Bishop Paul S. Morton Sr.

The founder of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship said via Twitter that, “it is definitely not the time 4 POTUS 2b a man with his husband up there by his side.”

Asked to explain, Morton said Democrats’ goal should be defeating Trump in 2020, and to appeal to moderate voters they should avoid nominating a gay candidate.

Buttigieg can’t win his party’s nomination without support from African-American voters. And he must deal with the reality that conservative Christianity frowns upon homosexuality -- and that African-Americans are more likely to self-identify as being Christian. 

But there are other reasons why black voters may not be getting behind Buttigieg, including his relatively low national profile and a man named Joe Biden who continues to lead in polls of likely black voters.

***

The format of the Nov. 20 debate of Democratic presidential candidates in Atlanta has been set. Here are a few of the rules:

-- The two-hour program will be broken into four segments and three commercial breaks.

-- No opening statements, and each candidate will have 75 seconds for closing statements.

-- Candidates will have 75 seconds for answers and 45 seconds for follow-ups — at the moderator’s discretion. 

-- At least one question submitted by a voter will be asked. And there will be no “hand-raise” questions. 

***

We have been inundated with inquiries on how one might score tickets to the Nov. 20 debate on the grounds of Tyler Perry’s studio, but have no answers. We do not even know the size of the audience that will be allowed.

That hasn’t stopped the Democratic Party of Georgia from selling a few tickets – to an “official debate watch party for our Democratic presidential candidates and our most loyal grassroots supporters.”

Exactly where this event will be held is a secret revealed only after one plunks down his or her cash. But those who have say they are directed to a small brewery in southwest Atlanta. Which is not on Tyler Perry’s property.

***

Democrats in the U.S. House have scheduled the first round of open hearings as part of their impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump.

Next Wednesday, two State Department officials with ties to Ukraine -- Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent -- will be questioned by members of the House Intelligence Committee. Then on Friday the committee will hear from Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. 

All three have already testified behind closed doors, and the transcripts from Taylor and Yovanovitch’s depositions were released recently as part of the House’s attempt to make their probe more transparent. 

This time, all of the answers will be broadcast live and nationwide.

***

In the Washington Post, an important trial balloon has been raised by columnist Hugh Hewitt. In part: 

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died on Feb. 13, 2016, it took [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell about an hour to declare that the Senate would not consider a replacement nominee until after the November presidential election. This bold move on behalf of the Constitution will always be McConnell’s crowning achievement as leader: He let the people decide the direction of the court. The vacancy proved to be a key motivator in Trump’s stunning upset.

Americans who supported McConnell can be counted on to back him now if Senate Republicans decide that bogus articles of impeachment do not merit the Senate’s sustained attention. Peremptory dismissal — think of it as a motion for summary judgment — would serve future presidents of both parties even if it would deny Trump the high-profile political theater he delights in and almost invariably has succeeded in dominating since he came down the escalator.

***

Headed to a campaign trail near you: Site Selection Magazine, the niche business publication, announced that Georgia has the nation’s top business climate for the seventh year in a row. 

Gov. Brian Kemp said in Augusta that Georgia was the only state to receive the distinction that many times. 

Kemp is following a path blazed by Gov. Nathan Deal to capitalize on the hoopla around the publication’s rankings – a strategy that frustrated critics who accused him of using the accolade to mask the state’s economic problems.

Kemp seems certain, too, try to cast the magazine’s ranking as a stamp of approval on Georgia’s business environment and his political agenda at an uncertain economic time.

***

Republican activist Julianne Thompson withdrew from a role as moderator from an upcoming Seventh District GOP forum amid “some concern about a campaign disclosure” that linked her with a candidate.

She wrote in an email to the candidates that she’s not serving as a political consultant for any contested Republican primary campaign, and will focus on boosting Trump through her role on his women advisory panel.

She said that the $2,500 she was paid by Lynn Homrich’s campaign was to set up an event at the Georgia GOP convention in May. She added:

“I understand there was some concern and I do not want anyone to feel uncomfortable. I have a stellar reputation regarding honesty, fairness, and professionalism. That being said, I have spoken with some of the event organizers and informed them I will be withdrawing from the event as moderator. I wish you all the absolute best and most informative forum, and may the best person win the election. I will be supporting whomever that is.”

***

As our former Washington correspondent Tamar Hallerman noted in a story that ran on our front page yesterday, the latest round of Georgia and Florida's long-running water rights battle will play out in an Albuquerque courtroom today. We're told Attorney General Chris Carr and Georgia's Solicitor General Andrew Pinson will be there in person to show their support for the state's legal team. 

Here’s a refresher on the case, which has so far cost Georgia taxpayers some $47.5 million, and what to expect in the months ahead.

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