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July 17, 2019

President Trump on Wednesday hosted an unannounced meeting with 27 survivors of religious persecution from 17 countries in the Oval Office, the timing of which has prompted speculation from his critics.

The meet and greet was televised, with Trump listening momentarily to stories of survival from several different people. Those gathered included people from the Uighur community in China, the Yazidi community in Iraq, and the Rohingya community in Myanmar, all religious groups that have recently been subject to brutal persecution either from their state governments or, in the Yazidis case, the Islamic State.

Also in attendance was Paula White, a non-denominational pastor who reportedly advises Trump spiritually. White, speaking after a few of the victims, thanked Trump for his "courageous leadership" in the fight for religious freedom for all people before specifically mentioning that, because of Trump, people in the U.S. could say "Merry Christmas" again.

The surprise event's timing has some people speculating that it could be a way for the president to stave off criticism from his racist tweets targeting four Democratic congresswomen. Tim O'Donnell

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