Franklin Graham, a North Carolina-based evangelist, didn’t officially endorse Donald Trump last year, but he’s become an enthusiastic backer of all things Trump.
The latest case came last month: Graham decided to add a closing banquet for his conference on persecuted Christians at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. According to an article in the June 19 edition of Time magazine, Graham planned last year to hold the entire conference at the capital city’s Mayflower Hotel.
Two months after Trump’s inauguration, Graham decided to add not only a closing banquet at Trump International but “also reserved rooms for select guests, which meant ferrying them between hotels in a fleet of black SUVs.”
Among the guests, Time reported, was a delegation from Moscow headed by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. The magazine identified Alfeyev as a top cleric of the Russian Orthodox Church and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The cleric met during the conference with Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke at Graham’s conference, according to Time.
A spokesperson for Graham told Time that neither the Mayflower nor a nearby Hilton could accommodate the banquet, and up to 40 rooms came as part of the package.
But Ignatius Aphrem II, patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, told Time about Graham’s Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: “Maybe they have special arrangements. Maybe they are friends of the President (Trump).”
Meanwhile, Democratic state attorneys general, a chief roadblock to some of Trump’s most controversial policies, escalated their campaign against him on Monday, The Washington Post reported. They allege in a lawsuit that payments by foreign governments to Trump’s businesses violate anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution.
Even before the election, Graham and Republican Trump found themselves aligned on several key issues.
Graham backed one of Trump’s most controversial proposals, to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the United States. And last December, Graham joined then-President-elect Trump at a rally in Mobile, Ala. He told the crowd that he believed that God had intervened in the election to give Trump the win.
“I don’t have any scientific information. I don’t have a stack of emails to read to you,” Graham said at the gathering, according to the Washington Examiner. “But I have an opinion: I believe it was God. God showed up. He answered the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people across this land who had been praying for this country.”
A month later, Graham was one of six clergy tapped by Trump to offers prayers and read from Scripture at the presidential inauguration.
Graham began at the podium with an ad lib: “Mr. President, in the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s blessing. And it started to rain, Mr. President, when you came to the platform (for his inaugural speech).”
In recent Facebook posts, Graham wished Pence a happy birthday and said the president of Notre Dame University should “rip up” the diplomas of graduates who protested Pence’s commencement address by walking out.
In other posts, Graham offered rave reviews of Trump’s speeches during the president’s recent visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe.
“The president’s speech to leaders of the Muslim world earlier today was great,” Graham said. “It was extremely diplomatic yet strong, direct, and honest. He said the war on terror was a ‘battle between good and evil.’ He was not timid in talking about 'confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds.’ God bless him.”
He also lauded Trump’s commencement address at Liberty University, a Christian school in Virginia, this way on Facebook:
“I’m thankful we have a president who understands the importance of God in our nation’s history and the importance of God in our nation's future. Aren’t you?”