The senior evangelical leader and backer of Donald Trump, Robert Jeffress, has vigorously defended the US President following growing claims of collusion over Russian meddling in last year's presidential election.
Jeffress, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, issued a statement in response to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's indictments of Republican operative and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Richard Gates, which were announced on Monday.
The 12-count indictment included conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, making false and misleading statements and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign banks and financial accounts.
Jeffress said: 'Months of investigation and millions of wasted taxpayer dollars have yielded absolutely no evidence of any collusion between President Trump and Russia. The president's supporters are smart enough to understand that the Russia investigation is no more than an attempt by the left – and some in the Republican establishment – to paralyse President Trump and to prevent him from enacting his conservative agenda. I predict that nothing short of a picture showing President Trump holding a flashlight while the Russians are breaking into our voting machines will diminish the president's strong support from Evangelical Christians.'
Manafort and Gates have both pleaded not guilty to the charges. The Kremlin has denied it meddled in the election campaign to try to tilt the vote in Trump's favour. Trump has denied any collusion by his campaign.
Jeffress continued: 'It should not be forgotten that evangelical Christians voted for President Trump by the largest margin in history. For many Christians, President Trump's election not only represented God giving America another chance, but perhaps a last chance to reverse our nation's downward death spiral.
'That's why exit polling indicated that much of this strong support was due to his commitment to nominating conservative federal judges and Supreme Court justices and his vow to protect the unborn from being slaughtered in the wombs of their mothers – commitments many evangelicals believe he has spent the past year fulfilling despite obstructionism from Congress.
'And that's why, with the President at my side last week at a Republican fundraiser, I said, "Mr President, those of us who are your supporters cannot allow that obstruction of your agenda to happen, and with God's help, we will not allow that to happen."'