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Trump invited Evangelical leaders for a special state dining room event on Monday at the White House and rattled off a list of promises his administration kept for the Christian community. Among them, nominating conservative judges and recent White House commitments to defend religious freedom. But he also talked about what he thinks is at stake in the upcoming 2018 midterms, and said those accomplishments could come under attack "quickly and violently" if Republicans lose.
"You're one election away from losing everything that you've got," Trump told the room.
Trump said if Republicans lose, "they will overturn everything that we've done and they'll do it quickly and violently."
"When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are violent people," Trump stated.
Antifa is a group of anti-fascists activists who have protested against white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Trump administration. President Trump appeared to equate Antifa and white supremacists after fighting in Charlottesville last year that left one woman dead. Trump said there was "blame on both sides."
Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins was a guest at the dinner and confirmed the reported quotes from NBC and the Washington Post from an audio recording to ABC News, but said he interpreted Trump’s comments differently. ABC News did not listen to or obtain an audio recording of the president’s remarks.
"The audio is accurate, but it was selectively released and you have to understand it in the context of the entire evening," Perkins said.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Perkins said President Trump returned to the podium after reporters left the room, and "as he does, speaks off the cuff, but reiterated his list of things that have been accomplished."
"I think the people in the room interpreted that all those things that we talked about, we cared about -- that elections have consequences," Perkins said. "I did not take from his comments that based on the outcome of the election there would be violence in the streets or the churches."
"We know the intent, the violence behind the left, because of what we have witnessed from Antifa," Perkins said. "What I interpreted it as him saying is that it’s not a time for complacency."
When asked about his comments about violence potentially breaking out if Republicans lose, Trump said on Wednesday he hopes there "won't be violence."
"There’s a lot of unnecessary violence all over the world, but also in this country and I don’t want to see this," Trump said.