The woman credited with smoothing over Donald Trump’s relations with evangelical Christians and shaping the image of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has snagged a job at the State Department, Foreign Policy has learned.
Pam Pryor, the Trump campaign’s leader of “faith and Christian outreach” is vetting personnel and coordinating policy issues from her perch inside the Office of International Religious Freedom, according to two officials who spotted Pryor in her new digs.
The office is expected to gain a higher profile under the Trump administration as it carries out White House directives to prioritize the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and more aggressively call out Muslim-majority governments for failing to protect religious minorities.
Pryor is currently a member of the State Department’s beachhead team, a group of enforcers tasked with putting in place the people and policies that align with the Trump White House. A formal role for Pryor isn’t expected to be announced for several weeks.
A State Department spokesperson declined to outline Pryor’s responsibilities, but a separate source familiar with her activities said she’s been vetting candidates for the job of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, a shortlist that includes Ken Starr, the attorney best known for his controversial investigations into Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
“It’s my understanding that it’s his job if he wants it,” said an individual familiar with the process.
Pryor burst onto the national stage during the 2008 presidential election as Palin’s “go-to girl” and confidante, and later served as the spokeswoman for Palin’s political action committee and her national political adviser. Palin endorsed Trump in a freewheeling speech to Iowa voters last January, a risky gamble at the time considering the real estate mogul’s outsider status.
Pryor boasts a strong network of social conservatives and religious leaders and has been credited with helping allay concerns many Christian leaders had with Trump, a crass-talking twice-divorced former reality TV star who stumbled through bible verse recitations in the primaries.
Despite his awkward courtship of the Christian right, Trump dominated the white evangelical vote, 80-16 percent, according to exit polls, the most they’ve supported a GOP presidential candidate since 2004.
In recent interviews, Trump has promised to do more than the Obama administration to protect Christians from extremists who are “chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians.”
“We’re going to help them,” Trump told the Christian broadcaster CBN last month. “They’ve been horribly treated.”
Supporters will be watching closely for who he picks for the top post at the Office of International Religious Freedom.
Though best known for uncovering details of Clinton’s extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky, Starr took an interest in religious freedom issues in his role as president of Baylor University in Texas from 2010 to 2016. “He’s been very, very strong on the issue,” Frank Wolf, a former Republican congressman and religious freedom advocate, told FP. The university has been organizing conferences and sending letters on the issue, he added. Starr left Baylor in 2016 amid criticisms of the university’s handling of a series of sexual assault cases under his watch.
Other rumored candidates include Johnnie Moore, Jr., the former “special faith adviser” to Ben Carson and Nina Shea, a human rights lawyer at the conservative Hudson Institute.
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SOURCE: Foreign Policy