Franklin Graham, a North Carolina-based evangelist, didn’t officially endorse Donald Trump last year, but he’s become an enthusiastic backer of all things Trump.

The latest case came last month: Graham decided to add a closing banquet for his conference on persecuted Christians at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. According to an article in the June 19 edition of Time magazine, Graham planned last year to hold the entire conference at the capital city’s Mayflower Hotel.

Two months after Trump’s inauguration, Graham decided to add not only a closing banquet at Trump International but “also reserved rooms for select guests, which meant ferrying them between hotels in a fleet of black SUVs.”

Among the guests, Time reported, was a delegation from Moscow headed by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. The magazine identified Alfeyev as a top cleric of the Russian Orthodox Church and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The cleric met during the conference with Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke at Graham’s conference, according to Time.

A spokesperson for Graham told Time that neither the Mayflower nor a nearby Hilton could accommodate the banquet, and up to 40 rooms came as part of the package.

But Ignatius Aphrem II, patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, told Time about Graham’s Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: “Maybe they have special arrangements. Maybe they are friends of the President (Trump).”

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SOURCE: JOE MARUSAK AND TIM FUNK 
Charlotte Observer

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