POLITICS

Trump tells religious leaders: ‘We’re going to beat this plague’

Trump tells religious leaders: ‘We’re going to beat this plague’

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told religious leaders on Wednesday that “we have a tremendous year coming up” and that the United States would beat coronavirus “soon,” while seeming to implore people of faith to support him in his re-election.

“We have a tremendous year coming up. We’re going to beat this plague. We’re going to beat this virus and we’re going to beat it soon,” Trump told the leaders on an off-the-record conference call. “We’re going to get our country back.”

“We have a very, very powerful year coming up because you know what lies ahead,” Trump continued. “And we have to do it. People of faith have to do it. We have to have victory. So I just want to thank everybody very much. And I’m always here.”

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Trump made the remarks in a call with religious figures ahead of the Easter and Passover holidays. NBC News was not invited to participate but reviewed a recording of the call.

Vice President Mike Pence also joined the call, thanking religious leaders for their efforts to encourage the social distancing guidelines even when it means their congregants can’t gather at places of worship.

“The president says we will defeat the coronavirus, and we’ll come back stronger than ever before, and it’ll be the faith of the American people that laid the foundation for that great, great comeback,” Pence said.

After Trump and Pence spoke briefly, he introduced three religious leaders to speak about the work their groups are doing to help amid the pandemic.

Trump praised one of those leaders, evangelical leader Franklin Graham, for the work his group Samaritan Purse’s work setting up a field hospital in Central Park.

Graham has said previously that COVID-19 is happening because of sin and because mankind “turned its back on God.” On the call Wednesday, he praised Trump and Pence for their handling of the crisis.

“Mr. President, we want to thank you and the vice president for your leadership, our country would be in trouble,” Graham said. “If you were not the president, I just shudder to think where we would be.”

Mark Wilf, chair of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America, and Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, also spoke.

Trump also asked three clergy on the call to say a prayer, including Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner of Temple Emanu-El in Closter, New Jersey.

Rabbi Kirshner invoked the Passover holiday that starts tonight and was the only one on the call to pay tribute to Muslims in the U.S., noting the upcoming Ramadan holiday.

Image: Josh LedermanJosh Lederman

Josh Lederman is a national political reporter for NBC News.

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