(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday blasted the magazine founded by the late Reverend Billy Graham after the influential publication for conservative evangelical U.S. Christians called for him to be removed from office.
Christianity Today on Thursday wrote in an editorial entitled “Trump Should Be Removed from Office” that it could no longer stand on the sidelines after the Republican president’s impeachment this week by the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents,” it wrote. “That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”
The Democratic-led House impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 election. The Republican-led Senate is expected to hold a trial next month on whether to remove Trump from office.
Trump, who has denied wrongdoing and branded his impeachment as a politically-motivated effort by Democrats to overturn the results of the 2016 election, questioned Christianity Today’s success and dismissed its call that he be removed from office.
“No President has done more for the evangelical community, and it’s not even close,” Trump tweeted.
Christianity Today Editor Mark Galli, in response, said Trump’s conduct was an urgent concern.
“We rarely comment on politics unless we feel it rises to the level of some national … concern that is really important. And this would be a case,” he told CNN in an interview. “This is something we need as a movement to think about, pray about at this time in our life.”
Evangelical Christians make up about 25% of U.S. voters, according to Pew Research, and have been a bedrock of Trump’s support. In 2016, he took over 80% of the group’s votes, according to Pew’s polling.
In making its case, the magazine said its stance calling for former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment years ago applies “almost perfectly to our current president.”
Christianity Today acknowledged Trump has advanced conservative Christian causes with his nominations for the U.S. Supreme Court, his “defense of religious liberty” and his economic policies.
But it said the impeachment process over Trump’s efforts to leverage his public office to solicit Ukraine’s investigations ahead of the 2020 U.S. election showed he “betrayed his constitutional oath.”
Trump on Friday suggested Christianity Today was “far left” and supported Democrats – a charge Galli rejected, telling CNN it was considered “pretty centrist.”
Billy Graham’s son Franklin said in a tweet on Friday that his father, who was one of the best known Christian evangelical leaders and a spiritual adviser to U.S. presidents, was a Trump supporter and would have been “disappointed” in the editorial.
The magazine’s editorial also criticized Democrats for what it said was an effort to take down Trump since he took office, but it concluded that did not justify the president’s actions.
“To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve,” it said. “Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior.”
Reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert in Washington; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Paul Simao