[What follows is excerpted from a report headlined Power not piety is what the evangelicals worship published this evening on the website of The Times:]
President Trump’s first outing at the National Prayer Breakfast, a Washington institution, was widely panned as a disaster.
He opened his speech with an attack on Arnold Schwarzenegger, the film star who replaced him as host of The Apprentice, and called on his audience of devout Christians to pray for Arnie’s terrible ratings to improve.
Clearly enjoying the joke, the president laughed to himself while a few feet away Mike Pence, the born-again vice-president, furrowed his brow in a look of barely concealed disgust.
It still baffles many why the organisers of Washington’s most prestigious annual Christian event invite the profane president to give their keynote address, or why 81 per cent of white evangelical Americans voted for him in 2016 which is believed to be a record for any president.
The publicity about alleged infidelities and the leak of Mr Trump’s crude locker-room banter about seducing women do not seem very Christian. This completely misses the point, however, according to a Netflix documentary called The Family about the secretive organisers of the National Prayer Breakfast. (...)
As soon as Mr Trump was elected, the Fellowship Foundation, which organises the National Prayer Breakfast and refers to itself as the Family, made a beeline for him. A delegation went to Trump Tower in New York led by Doug Coe, the de facto leader of the well-connected group which had persuaded every president since Eisenhower to attend. Mr Coe, who died in 2017 aged 88, led the foundation since 1969 but assiduously stayed out of the limelight. The documentary sets out just how far-reaching his contacts were with senior US politicians as well as powerful figures overseas, including some of Africa’s most unsavoury leaders from Colonel Gaddafi of Libya to the recently deposed Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.
In 1999, Mr Coe and Mark Siljander, a former Michigan congressman, met a Libyan foreign minister on a freelance diplomatic mission to Tripoli in the name of Jesus rather than the US government. Ten days later Gaddafi handed over the two Lockerbie bombing suspects.
“The bigger the monster, the bigger the work of God,” said Jeff Sharlet, 47, the author who exposed the tentacles of The Family in a book of the same name subtitled ‘The secret fundamentalism at the heart of American power’.
[RB: The implication here is that this "freelance diplomatic mission to Tripoli in the name of Jesus" induced the Libyan regime in the person of Colonel Gaddafi to hand over Megrahi and Fhimah for trial. This is arrant nonsense. The two suspects were not "handed over by Gaddafi". Gaddafi had no power to do so. The suspects themselves took the decision voluntarily to surrender for trial. The process is accurately set out in the following excerpts from my article From Lockerbie to Zeist:]
[O]n 14 November 1991 the prosecution authorities in Scotland and the United States simultaneously announced that they had brought criminal charges against two named Libyan nationals who were alleged to be members, and to have been acting throughout as agents, of the Libyan intelligence service. (...)
On 27 November 1991 the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States each issued a statement calling upon the Libyan government to hand over the two accused to either the Scottish or the American authorities for trial. Requests for their extradition were transmitted to the government of Libya through diplomatic channels. No extradition treaties are in force between Libya on the one hand and United Kingdom and the United States on the other.
Libyan internal law, in common with the laws of many countries in the world, does not permit the extradition of its own nationals for trial overseas. The government of Libya accordingly contended that the affair should be resolved through the application of the provisions of a 1971 civil aviation Convention concluded in Montreal to which all three relevant governments are signatories. That Convention provides that a state in whose territory persons accused of terrorist offences against aircraft are resident has a choice aut dedere aut judicare, either to hand over the accused for trial in the courts of the state bringing the accusation or to take the necessary steps to have the accused brought to trial in its own domestic courts. In purported compliance with the second of these options, the Libyan authorities arrested the two accused and appointed a Supreme Court judge as examining magistrate to consider the evidence and prepare the case against them. (...) [T]he UK and US governments refused to make available to the examining magistrate the evidence that they claimed to have amassed against the accused, who remained under house arrest until they were eventually handed over in April 1999 for trial at Kamp van Zeist.
The United Nations Security Council (of which the UK and the USA are, of course, permanent members) first became involved in the Lockerbie affair on 21 January 1992 when it passed Resolution 731 strongly deploring the government of Libya's lack of co-operation in the matter and urging it to respond to the British and American requests contained in their statements of 27 November 1991. This was followed by Security Council Resolution 748 (31 March 1992) requiring Libya to comply with the requests within a stipulated period of time, failing which a list of sanctions specified in the Resolution would be imposed. Compliance was not forthcoming and sanctions (including trade and air transport embargos) duly came into effect in April 1992. The range and application of these sanctions was extended by a further Resolution passed on 11 November 1993. The imposition of sanctions under these last two Resolutions was justified by the Security Council by reference to Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations on the basis that Libya's failure to extradite the accused constituted a threat to world peace. (...)
[I was] asked if I would be prepared to provide (on an unpaid basis) independent advice to the government of Libya on matters of Scottish criminal law, procedure and evidence with a view (it was hoped) to persuading them that their two citizens would obtain a fair trial if they were to surrender themselves to the Scottish authorities. This I agreed to do, and submitted material setting out the essentials of Scottish solemn criminal procedure and the various protections embodied in it for accused persons.
In the light of this material, it was indicated to me that the Libyan government was satisfied regarding the fairness of a criminal trial in Scotland but that since Libyan law prevented the extradition of nationals for trial overseas, the ultimate decision on surrender for trial would have to be one taken voluntarily by the accused persons themselves, in consultation with their independent legal advisers. For this purpose a meeting was convened in Tripoli in October 1993 of the international team of lawyers which had already been appointed to represent the accused. (...)
I am able personally to testify to how much of a surprise and embarrassment it was to the Libyan government when the outcome of the meeting of the defence team was an announcement that the accused were not prepared to surrender themselves for trial in Scotland. (...)
The Libyan government attitude remained, as it always had been, that they had no constitutional authority to hand their citizens over to the Scottish authorities for trial. The question of voluntary surrender for trial was one for the accused and their legal advisers, and while the Libyan government would place no obstacles in the path of, and indeed would welcome, such a course of action, there was nothing that it could lawfully do to achieve it. (...)
Having mulled over the concerns expressed to me by [the Libyan defence lawyer] in October 1993, I returned to Tripoli and on 10 January 1994 presented a letter to him suggesting a means of resolving the impasse created by the insistence of the governments of the United Kingdom and United States that the accused be surrendered for trial in Scotland or America and the adamant refusal of the accused to submit themselves for trial by jury in either of these countries.
[RB: This scheme was accepted in writing by the suspects and their lawyers (and by the Libyan government) within two days. It remained unacceptable to the United Kingdom and the United States for a further four years and seven months. But finally, in late August 1998, a neutral venue proposal was advanced by the UK which eventually led to Megrahi and Fhimah surrendering themselves for trial.]