By Lawrence Wilson and Joseph Lord
Former President Donald Trump has pledged to appoint a task force to investigate alleged political persecution by the Biden administration if elected to a second term.
The 77-year-old former president and leading Republican candidate made the promise before the more than 1,000 attendees at the Pray, Vote, Stand Summit in Washington on Sept. 15.
“To reverse these cruel travesties of justice, tonight I’m announcing that the moment I win the election, I will appoint a special task force to rapidly review the cases of every political prisoner who has been unjustly persecuted by the Biden administration,” President Trump said.
The gathering of evangelical Christians focused on political activism and also drew presidential hopefuls former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
While Mr. DeSantis won a standing ovation and others were received warmly, the crowd lavished its attention on President Trump with frequent, sustained applause and shouts of encouragement.
President Trump spoke for just over an hour, recounting the promises he had kept to Christian voters in his first term and listing the actions he would take on their behalf in a second administration.
Regarding those he termed political prisoners, President Trump said he would review the cases quickly and “sign their pardons or commutations on day one.”
“It’s a horrible thing what’s happening—22 years, 18 years, 10 years. It’s a terrible thing,” President Trump said. Though he did not mention specific cases, a 22-year prison sentence was recently given to Enrique Tarrio, former leader of the Proud Boys, for crimes related to Jan. 6.
“There’s never been a thing like this happen in our country,” President Trump continued.
“Never again will the federal government be used to target religious believers, and that’s what they’re doing. They’re targeting many people, but also, and in particular, religious believers,” he said.
“Americans of faith are not a threat to our country,” President Trump said. “Americans of faith are the soul of our country.”
President Trump had said he would “most likely” pardon “a large portion” of the Jan. 6 defendants and would do so “very early on” during a town hall hosted by CNN at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire.
His statements on Sept. 15 were the first mention of a special task force and of issuing pardons on his first day in office.
The list of other proposed actions covered a gamut of issues from international affairs to religious liberty to the economy.
President Trump repeated his claim that he would end the war in Ukraine very quickly, adding that he would do so even before taking office if elected.
“I will stop the disaster known as Bidenomics, which stands for inflation, taxation, submission, and failure,” President Trump said.
He also promised to return America to energy dominance in the world and protect Social Security and Medicare.
“I will terminate every open border policy of the Biden administration and commence the largest deportation operation in American history,” President Trump said. “We have no choice. This is not sustainable.”
Other first-day orders would include cutting federal funding for any school promoting critical race theory, transgender ideology, or “other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”
“I will insist on the right of every parent to send their child to the public, private, charter, or religious school of their choice,” he said. “And I will keep men out of women’s sports.”
Pray, Vote, Stand Summit was organized by Family Research Council, an evangelical think tank with an affiliated lobbying arm, and is billed as “a national gathering of spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives.”
Evangelical Christians have been an important Republican constituency, especially in presidential elections, and they favored President Trump in overwhelming numbers in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.
About 25 percent of Americans identify with evangelical denominations, according to Pew Research. In the 2016 presidential election, 77 percent of white evangelical Protestants voted for President Trump. In 2020, that share grew to 84 percent.
Those who attend religious services, regardless of denomination, voted for President Trump in large numbers in 2020. Overall, 59 percent voted for President Trump. Among Whites who regularly attend services, the percentage was 71.