The latest bright idea from Donald Trump’s increasingly desperate congressional Republican defenders? Blame the entire Ukraine fiasco on Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. It was them, your Honor, in the drawing room with the candlestick! “The GOP,” reports The Washington Post, “is effectively offering up the three to be fall guys.”
In any event, Trump cannot be held responsible for his administration’s Ukraine dealings that have inspired ongoing impeachment proceedings, because as Sen. Lindsey Graham has been arguing all week, the president is too “incoherent” to pull off a stunt like this.
I don’t imagine that is going to sit well at the White House, any more than blaming the aforementioned Three Musketeers will. Trump — a man who would take credit for the moon’s gravitational pull if he could — does not like to share the spotlight with anyone, even if the spotlight is shining shame and disgrace down from the rafters.
These are grim and unsettled days at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Many powerful people before this president have sought refuge and solace from their own self-inflicted storms in the lifeboat of swiftly embraced religion. Now, Trump has joined them in this ancient tradition – but, of course, had to do it in full Trump style: Gaudily and shamelessly.
At the beginning of the month, it was announced that Trump was putting Florida “prosperity gospel” televangelist Paula White on the White House payroll as a religious adviser in the Office of Public Liaison. Her job will be to help corral the support of other evangelicals, who already support Trump to the tune of 71 percent and would probably still vote for him even if God personally denounced him on an episode of The 700 Club.
The choice of White is a strange one if courting evangelicals is actually the game plan. White’s “prosperity gospel,” which places God and personal wealth on the same spiritual platform, is anathema to many evangelical Christians. “Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe,” argued Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore in 2016.
Trump and White have known each other for years, and the two even had plans as far back as 2006 to build a giant crystal megachurch together. In the realm of brazen hucksterism, they are a matched set: In 2016, White spent Easter Sunday peddling “resurrection seeds” to her flock at the New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida. Supplicants could obtain eternal life by purchasing one of these seeds for a fee of $1,144.
Speaking of seeds, in 2018 White encouraged her followers to give her ministry a month’s pay, and warned of dire penalties should they fail to cough up the holy dough. “That is a big sacrifice,” she said, “but it is a seed for the harvest I am believing for in the coming year…. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience, there are consequences.”
White, new gig in hand, did not let the grass grow under her feet. Last Tuesday, she launched an initiative called the One Voice Prayer Movement alongside right-wing evangelical activists like Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets and Dave Kubal. The purpose of the exercise, put simply, was to pray away the demon of impeachment.
White incanted a prayer to this effect via conference call which, really, is just too perfect:
Lord, we ask you to deliver our president from any snare, any set up of the enemy according to Ephesians 6:12, any persons [or] entities that are aligned against the president will be exposed and dealt with and overturned by the superior blood of Jesus. Whether it’s the spirit of Leviathan, a spirit of Jezebel, Abaddon, whether it’s the spirit of Belial, we come against the strongmen, especially Jezebel, that which would operate in sorcery and witchcraft, that which would operate in hidden things, veiled thing, that which would operate in deception. We come against it according to your word.
Any persons or entities that are aligned against President Trump, the will of God, against the mantle that he would carry, against him as president, that it would be exposed and dealt with and overturned in Jesus’ name. We know that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness of this age, hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. Stretch out your arm and deliver President Trump and rid him of any bondage the enemy would try to bring against him. Thank you, Lord, for your hand establishing him, and let your arm strengthen President Trump.
Leaving aside the fact that Biblical scholars around the world will be astonished to learn that Jezebel was a strong man, the language deployed here — “sorcery and witchcraft,” “rulers of darkness,” “hosts of wickedness” — is straight out of Revelation. White is not talking about political opponents in the arena of democratic government, but about the very minions of Satan.
Trump’s base has long been trained to respond to this form of apocalypse flamethrower rhetoric. It rings especially hollow coming from White, however, given the low esteem most of the “mainstream” evangelical community holds her in; she is the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” many of them have been warned about since Sunday school … but then again, you would think Trump would fall into that category, too.
No, the “tell” in that prayer is found in the verbiage about “the mantle that he would carry.” Trump, in this moment, is desperate and cornered. What better balm for a man afflicted with rampant egotism than to hear from a “holy person” that he has been chosen to wear the mantle of Heaven, and that all who oppose him are not merely wrong, but an offense to God?
I believe this “prosperity gospel” minister understands Trump’s needs completely. A good grifter knows their mark before making a move, and White’s sudden appearance within Trump’s inner circle has the distinct feeling of being something not in any way accidental. Sharks can sense blood in the water from miles away. So can, I suspect, Paula White.