By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump warned evangelical leaders during a closed-door meeting of "violence" from leftists should Republicans lose November's midterm elections, according to a report published Tuesday.
"The level of hatred, the level of anger is unbelievable," Trump said during a private portion of a Monday evening event at the White House, according to NBC News, which obtained recordings of the meeting.
"Part of it is because of some of the things I've done for you and for me and for my family, but I've done them…This Nov. 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me, it's a referendum on your religion, it's a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment," he added.
Should Republicans lose November's midterms, Trump said "they will overturn everything that we've done and they'll do it quickly and violently, and violently. There's violence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are violent people."
Trump was referring to the black-clad group of far-leftists known as Antifa who have showed up at demonstrations across the U.S., sometimes turning to violence.
The president further claimed he got rid of a law known as the Johnson Amendment that prohibits non-profits, including religious organizations and charities, from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
"Now you're not silenced anymore. It's gone and there's no penalty anymore and if you like somebody or if you don't like somebody you can go out and say, 'This man is going to be great for evangelicals, or for Christianity or for another religion. This person is somebody that I like and I'm going to talk about it on Sunday," he said.
But the law remains on the books despite Trump's efforts and decades of opposition from evangelicals.
Trump signed an executive order early into his presidency aimed at easing the Johnson Amendment, but it did not undo the law as he claimed. That can only be done by Congress or the Supreme Court, should it rule the law unconstitutional, which it has not.
Evangelicals are a large voting bloc for the president, and Monday night's event in the State Dining Room was a bid to solidify their support.