Donald Trump has hit back at a leading evangelical magazine after it published an editorial entitled “Trump Should Be Removed from Office” – on the day he became the third US president to be impeached.
Mark Galli, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today – which has an estimated circulation of 130,000 – claimed Mr Trump had “dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration”.
He wrote: “He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals.
“He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud.
“His Twitter feed alone – with its habitual string of mischaracterisations, lies, and slanders – is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.”
Mr Galli added that Mr Trump “attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents” – referring to Democratic rival and former vice president Joe Biden.
“That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral,” he added.
But Mr Trump tweeted that Christianity Today – founded by the late Rev Billy Graham – “would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion and your guns, than Donald Trump as your President”.
He claimed the magazine “has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years”.
He added that it “knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call” – a reference to his July conversation with the president of Ukraine that led to his impeachment.
A far left magazine, or very “progressive,” as some would call it, which has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years, Christianity Today, knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2019
Some of the president’s strongest evangelical supporters – including Mr Graham’s son – have sided with him and stood against the magazine.
Rev Franklin Graham – who now leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and prayed at the president’s inauguration – tweeted that his late father would be “disappointed” in the publication.
He added that he “felt it necessary” following the editorial to share that his father, who died last year after counselling several past presidents, had voted for Mr Trump.
He claimed that Christianity Today “represents what I would call the leftist elite within the evangelical community”.
“They certainly don’t represent the Bible-believing segment of the evangelical community,” he added.
And in a Facebook post he said: “Is President Trump guilty of sin? Of course he is, as were all past presidents and as each one of us are, including myself.”
Mr Trump is popular among evangelicals, with around 70% of white evangelical protestants saying they approve of his presidency – according to Pew Research Centre polling from earlier this year.
He is only the third president in American history to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
Mr Trump is accused of abusing his power and obstructing Congress in the investigation into his phone call with Ukraine’s leader.
He has dismissed his impeachment as a hoax, claiming he has “done nothing wrong” – and said it was a partisan bid to undo his surprise 2016 election win.
He stands little chance of being convicted and removed from office by the Republican-controlled Senate, which will weigh the two impeachment charges that were passed on Wednesday by the Democratic-led House of Representatives.
Democrats want to call top Trump aides as witnesses, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not yet sent the impeachment package to the Senate.
Mr Trump is said to be “mad as hell” – and “demanding his day in court” – according to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham after emerging from a White House meeting with the president.
The president sees a Senate trial as his means for vindication, viewing acquittal as a partial antidote to impeachment’s stain on his legacy.
House Democrats had argued for weeks that Trump’s impeachment was needed “urgently” to protect the nation.