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Trump vows to scrap rule on religious groups and campaign politics

President Trump used the annual National Prayer Breakfast to reignite an old campaign promise: to change the tax code to allow churches and other tax-exempt groups to openly campaign for political candidates. John Yang reports on that and more.

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    From prayer breakfast to biker heaven, the president spent this day talking about religion, politics, trade and more.

    John Yang begins our coverage.


    Today, President Trump revved up his new administration with a visit from Harley-Davidson executives and workers.


    Boy, would you like to see me fall off these things? Would that be a story?


    And used the annual National Prayer Breakfast to reignite a campaign promise, vowing to change the tax code to allow churches and other tax-exempt groups to openly campaign for political candidates.


    I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that. Remember.



    The provision wasn't controversial when then-senator Lyndon Johnson introduced it and President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law in 1954. Now some religious leaders, especially conservative Christians, say it violates their freedom of speech.

    Speaking at the breakfast, Mr. Trump also defended his immigration order against critics who say it's a ban on Muslims.


    In the coming days, we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination.

    We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us and to love our values, not to hate us and to hate our values.


    There were also lighter moments, as when the president suggested divine intervention for the current incarnation of his TV show, "The Apprentice."


    They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It's been a total disaster. I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, OK?



    Schwarzenegger responded on the president's favorite forum with a Twitter video.

  • ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, Former California Governor:

    Hey, Donald, I have a great idea.

    Why don't we switch jobs? You take over TV, because you're such an expert in ratings, and I take over your job. And then people can finally sleep comfortably again.


    Later, Mr. Trump met at the White House with the leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees.

    The topic? Trade.


    NAFTA has been a catastrophe for our country. It's been a catastrophe for our workers and our jobs and our companies. They're leaving our country.

    I want to change it. And maybe we do it. Maybe we do a new NAFTA, and we put an extra F in the term NAFTA. You know what the F is for, right? Free and fair trade. Not just free trade. Free and fair trade.


    The president also responded to violent protests last night at the University of California, Berkeley, that led the cancellation of an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos.

    He is the highly contentious senior editor for Breitbart News, formerly run by top Trump adviser Stephen Bannon. Mr. Trump tweeted: "If U.C. Berkeley doesn't allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view, no federal funds?"

    The president may face protests in person at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where he plans to spend the weekend.

    Tonight, there are growing indications that the White House intends to put new sanctions on Iran perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Just yesterday, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the national security adviser, put Iran on notice over a nuclear — over a missile test that he said violated a United Nations Security Council resolution.

    Now, that violation has nothing to do with the Iran nuclear agreement, and administration officials say that whatever sanctions there may be will conform with that agreement — Judy.


    So, John, back to something else you were just talking about, and that's the president's tweet where he essentially sounded like he was threatening the University of California at Berkeley over a loss of federal funds because of those protests.

    What are you hearing about that at the White House?


    Well, Berkeley tells us they get about $600 million in federal funds, $200 million for financial aid for students, another $400 million for research, research grants.

    The people who know about federal funding for schools tell us it's virtually impossible for a president or even a Congress by themselves to single out a university or even a university system to cut off their funds unless they violate the law.


    And, separately, John, there had been some reporting that the president might sign an executive order that would allow businesses, in effect, to not do business with, not serve gays and lesbians on religious grounds. Where does that stand?


    Today, Sean Spicer says that's not something that they're ready to roll out or to say that the president is going to sign. There are indications — no indications that it's coming soon.

    To put this into a little perspective, I talked to people who worked in the transition, and they said that they have been encouraged to volunteer, to write proposed executive orders, that there was actually a book of executive — proposed executive orders.

    So there are a lot of draft executive orders on a lot of topics, but, as Sean Spicer said today, the key is whether or not President Trump says that's the one I want to sign. And so far, on this topic, Spicer said, he hasn't said that.


    So, John, a lot for our White House reporters to keep track of. Thank you, John.

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