Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. on Thursday signaled his unwavering support of President Trump’s increasingly erratic rhetoric on the Russia investigation, accusing Attorney General Jeff Sessions of being a “phony” who was disloyal to the president.
Falwell’s comment comes one day after Trump called on Sessions to end Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential presidential obstruction, which the president described as a “Rigged Witch Hunt.” In March last year, Sessions, a previous policy adviser to the Trump campaign, infuriated the president by recusing himself from all matters related to investigation, due to his previous meetings with Russian officials during the election.
“This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
On Thursday morning, Falwell piled on. “Jeff Sessions appeared unannounced at Liberty U the night before the 2016 election,” he tweeted, just after 2 a.m. Eastern Time. “I told students but could get almost none of them to come hear him. Could it be our students were the first to see he was a phony pretending to be a pro – @realDonaldTrump?”
Strangely @jeffsessions appeared unannounced at @LibertyU the night before the 2016 election on a bus tour. I told students but could get almost none of them to come hear him. Could it be our students were the first to see he was a phony pretending to be pro- @realDonaldTrump ?
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) August 2, 2018
Falwell has privately lobbied Trump to restore relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, recently revealing he spoke with Trump over the phone about the issue last year.
“I remember telling @realDonaldTrump in a private phone talk in 2017 to keep trying to improve the relationship between US & Russia despite the criticism and not to forget we might’ve lost WWII w/o Russia as an ally,” he tweeted Saturday. “Glad to see him reaching out to them from a position of strength.”
Falwell appeared to be referring to Trump’s repeated refusals to blame Russia for interfering in the 2016 election, as well as his July 16 press conference with Putin, in which he praised the Russian leader and thanked him for offering to help with Mueller’s investigation.
Previously, Falwell has called Russia’s crackdown on religious liberty “barbaric.”
I remember telling @realDonaldTrump in a private phone talk in 2017 to keep trying to improve the relationship between US & Russia despite the criticism and not to forget we might’ve lost WWII w/o Russia as an ally. Glad to see him reaching out to them from a position of strength
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) July 28, 2018
Falwell has repeatedly parroted some of Trump’s most controversial ideas and statements. Following the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last year, during which one woman was killed after an alleged white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, Falwell said that he was “so proud” of Trump for falsely claiming that “both sides” were responsible for the violence that day.
In response to that statement, more than 140 Liberty University alumni expressed support for a “return your diploma” protest on Facebook, saying Falwell’s comments had left them feeling “shame and anger.”
Falwell has also defended Trump’s alleged payout to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump and was paid not to speak about it in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.
“All these things were years ago,” he told CNN in January. “He’s not the same person now that he was back then. I believe that he’s changed […].”
In January 2017, Falwell was tapped by the administration to lead a Department of Education task force which would seek to curb the “excessive regulation of educational institutions.” According to the Wall Street Journal, Falwell singled out Title IX, which bans discrimination based on sex and has been used to force colleges do more to combat campus sexual assault.
“We literally have to have an army of compliance people,” he said at the time, suggesting the regulation and others like it were “making higher education more expensive.”