As Trump meets evangelical leaders amid Stormy Daniels scandal, what will it take for the support to stop?

As the world absorbs the revelation that Donald Trump reimbursed his lawyer's $130,000 payment of alleged 'hush money' to the pornography actress Stormy Daniels, the US president is today launching a new faith initiative aimed at giving religious leaders a stronger voice in government.

A combination photo shows adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, with US president Donald Trump.Reuters

It's a neat irony, and one noted by Barack Obama's former religion adviser Michael Wear, who tweeted last night: 'Rudy Giuliani just confirmed President Trump paid off a porn star in order to HELP the president, and so of course evangelical leaders will be at The White House tomorrow for the National Day of Prayer and signing of Trump's faith-based executive order.'

Obama supporters have a dog in this fight, because the former president never enjoyed the support among evangelical leaders they have offered to Trump. Indeed, as the veteran Fox News presenter Juan Williams noted in February, in a prescient article entitled 'Evangelicals sell their souls for Trump': 'Imagine for one moment if President Obama's personal lawyer had paid six figures in hush money to a porn star.

'The same evangelicals would have condemned him as not being Christian and possibly believing in Muslim law that allows multiple wives. They would have said he was a bad example to the nation's youth.'

It is worth quoting the article, from the long-time contributor to the right-wing, Republican-leaning, Murdoch-owned news channel, at some length today. It said: 'When it comes to the Stormy Daniels story, it is hard for me to understand the silence from evangelical Christians.'

US president Donald Trump leads administration officials and guests in prayer at the White House on February 1, 2017(Tweeter/Donald Trump)

Referring to the news that Michael D Cohen, the president's lawyer, said he personally paid $130,000 to Daniels, Williams wrote: 'Let it sink in: It is now confirmed that the president's personal lawyer paid a porn star for her silence...The money changed hands just before the 2016 election to allegedly stop her from talking about a sexual affair with candidate Trump that took place in 2006, just after Trump's wife had a baby. There is no longer any way to deny the fact of the payment and the nature of the tawdry story.'

He went on: 'Yes, the injunction to let he who is without sin cast the first stone is an important one. But it now seems clear that evangelical Christians, who hold up biblical edicts on lying, cheating and adultery, don't care about the word of God when it comes to Trump.'

Juan Williams

And that support keeps on growing. A PRRI survey last month found white evangelical support for Trump at an all-time high, with 75 per cent holding a favourable view of the president and just 22 per cent holding an unfavourable one.

As PRRI noted, this level of support is far above that of the general population, where Trump's favourability is at 42 per cent.

As Wiliams said: 'For a group that regularly preaches about the "sanctity of marriage" and inveighs against the evils of divorce, it was a major political puzzle to me when evangelicals first backed the thrice-married, adulterous Trump over Hillary Clinton...And now the puzzling behaviour of evangelicals is pushed to the limit by their support for Trump despite the slimy facts of the Stormy Daniels story.'

Williams concluded the important article, which first appeared on The Hill, by writing: 'When it comes to Trump, the nation's political, social and historical norms do not matter anymore. Now the acid of the Trump presidency is eating away at the integrity of leading evangelists and their supporters. God help us.'

To be fair to individual evangelical leaders, many of them are doubtless calculating that Trump's unconventional style of politics could just bring great achievements, from Korea abroad to religious freedom at home. They know they didn't elect a saint, and they think it's unfair that Trump should be judged by standards to which he never aspired: they just want someone who can do the job. 

The question for evangelicals that gets more urgent with every new revelation, however, is whether the ends justify the means. Having such a flawed character inextricably linked with evangelicalism cannot, in the end, be good for the brand.