President Donald Trump spent the weekend on Twitter defending himself against Democrats’ upcoming impeachment inquiry by quoting his supporters on cable news, including a pastor’s inflammatory prediction that the country could be destroyed and a civil war would ensue if the President was removed from office.
Evangelical pastor and Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress claimed on the network, “Democrats don’t care if they burn down and destroy the nation in the process” of impeachment.
“I have never seen the Evangelical Christians more angry over any issue than this attempt to illegitimately remove this President from office, overturn the 2016 (…) Election, and negate the votes of millions of Evangelicals in the process,” Trump tweeted, selectively quoting and amending what Jeffress said. “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”
Jeffress, a longtime Trump ally, made the comments on “Fox & Friends Weekend” Sunday morning. The evangelical pastor at a Texas megachurch has a long record of controversial comments. Earlier this year, he compared Christians who don’t support Trump to German Christians who did not try to stop the Nazis. He’s also compared Trump’s much touted border wall to the gates of heaven.
Jeffress is not the first person to publicly raise the notion that a civil war-like fracture is mounting, but these fears are typically left to the political fringe. The American Civil War began in 1861 over the future of the enslavement of black people in the United States.
These days, however, some fringe Republicans are suggesting a new civil war is on the horizon between Democrats and Republicans. Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, for example, has shared an image joking about the potential for a civil war is between blue states and red states – the latter, the image says, have “about 8 trillion bullets.”
The President’s tweets quoting Jeffress garnered swift criticism from several Democrats, and the statement unnerved one sitting Republican congressman, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, enough to say it was “beyond repugnant.”
“I have visited nations ravaged by civil war. @RealDonaldTrump I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant,” Kinzinger, a veteran who has served missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, tweeted Sunday.
Trump has previously made veiled – and sometimes explicit – encouragements of violence, going back to the 2016 campaign when his rallies would be interrupted frequently by protesters. And he’s been criticized for talking about how tough his supporters are while at the same time implying they might not remain peaceful.
The Jeffress tweet was one among dozens Trump sent over the weekend distracting and defending himself from the impeachment inquiry – which ranged from clips from supporters defending him on cable television, dredging up accusations against his 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and sharing a tweet saying a Fox news anchor and chief national correspondent “got his ass handed to him” by conservative radio host Mark Levin.
Trump’s weekend tweet marathon comes as the President and his allies are attempting to mount a defense of Trump’s behavior and track record amid a Democratic impeachment inquiry into his interactions with Ukraine, part of a series of allegations made in an intelligence community whistleblower report released to the public last week.
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect Adam Kinzinger is a US representative of Illinois.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.