Donald Trump had a very busy morning on Thursday — first taking to Twitter to justify his $130,000 in hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels, then heading straight to the White House Rose Garden where he met with a group of religious leaders to announce a new executive order aimed at pleasing Evangelicals.
The president took to Twitter early in the morning to justify the payment to Daniels, saying it was not in any way a campaign violation. As CNN noted, Trump’s statements in the morning represented a significant about-face for the White House, which for months has denied that he had any knowledge of the money paid to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.
It was one of Trump’s most direct references to Stormy Daniels after having spent months avoiding the thorny issue.
“Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA,” Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.
Hours after the tweets about Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump met with religious leaders to commemorate the annual National Day of Prayer and announce the establishment of a new faith-based office, the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative. As CBS News noted, Trump also signed an executive order to ensure that faith-based organizations have “equal access to government funding and equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs.”
“Prayer has always been at the center of the American life. America is a nation of believers, and together we are strengthened by the power of prayer,” Trump said in the first public remarks after he admitted paying hush money to the adult film star.
The event had religious leaders from across faiths, but as the Washington Post noted, his initiatives have tilted heavily toward Evangelicals, a key component of Trump’s support base. Thursday’s even included Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of the late evangelist Billy Graham, and details of the new faith initiative were shared by Johnnie Moore, spokesman for the president’s evangelical advisory group. Reports noted that the executive order was aimed at pleasing this Evangelical base.
WH had no idea Rudy was going to say what he said last night. Neither did a number of people around Trump. This is a car being driven by Trump and Rudy and the rest are all locked in their seats https://t.co/xJRLG5cqnm— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 3, 2018
Though Evangelical leaders have been some of Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters, many are starting to show concern about the Stormy Daniels payout. As The Daily Beast reported, some of these leaders have organized a “sit-down meeting” with Trump in June to talk about the alleged affair with the adult film star.