Back in June, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign announced the formation of an evangelical executive advisory board that was stacked with Religious Right activists, including Michele Bachmann, James Dobson, Ralph Reed, James Robison, Robert Jeffress, Jerry Falwell, Jr. and several others.
Members of this advisory board reportedly held regular calls with the campaign and had personal access to Trump, which prompted board member Kenneth Copeland to rejoice on election night that, for the first time in his life, he’ll now be able to share messages from God directly with the president of the United States.
According to an article from Politico today, this was not mere hyperbole on the part of Copeland, as Trump reportedly intends to keep this advisory board functioning during his presidency. In the latest sign that Trump intends to allow Religious Right activists to shape his administration, the president-elect has reportedly already given advisory board members unprecedented access during the transition process and repeatedly sought the board’s recommendations when making personnel decisions:
The first sign that these leaders will continue to have influence after helping him win: He is keeping intact his evangelical advisory board, according to several members of the group, who say that there continues to be a weekly conference call, facilitated by Pam Pryor, a member of Trump’s transition team with a background in conservative politics, including a stint with Sarah Palin. She was not made available for an interview, and the Trump transition team didn’t respond to detailed requests for comment.
“Mr. Trump evidently told his staff he wanted to keep the advisory board intact, he wanted us to continue to meet, to give him advice, and I will tell you, I have been surprised at the level to which the transition team has solicited our input on personnel,” said Richard Land, a longtime leader in Southern Baptist politics, who said top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway has also checked in with the group since the election.
Members of the board are already making plans to be in Washington for the National Prayer Breakfast, slated for Feb. 2 — less than two weeks after Trump’s inauguration, and likely the first high-profile faith event of Trump’s presidency. There are discussions underway for the board to meet in person in Washington. And they have already been asked by the transition team to provide names for key slots in the administration, including for faith-based offices.
“I will say, having been involved with administrations from Reagan’s forward, this is the most solicitous that any incoming administration has been for input from evangelicals concerning personnel decisions that I’ve experienced,” Land said, going on to add, “It’s come from Pam’s office, and she has said, ‘He’s very grateful for the faith community, he wants your input.’ That didn’t even happen under George W. Bush. They were willing to take our recommendations, but they didn’t actively solicit them three times before inauguration.