'Nothing more pathetic …' Trump's commencement address has message for Comey, critics

"President Trump ventured into politics at a time when our nation has never been more polarised", Falwell said.

Trump has further scored with social conservatives in his appointment of their fellow traveler, religious school champion Betsy DeVos, as secretary of education, and in his strong support for so-called school choice.

In one of the more freaky sections of the speech, Trump read off the Liberty University football team's entire 2018 schedule, remarking several times on the difficulty of the competition they would face - "Jerry, are you sure you know what you're doing here?" he asked upon noting that the team would be facing perennial powerhouse Auburn.

"You aren't going to let other people tell you what you believe, especially when you know that you're right", the President told the crowd, to intermittent applause. He later added: "We all bleed the same blood of patriots, we all salute the same, great American flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God".

Few Christian leaders have been as vocally supportive of the Trump administration as Falwell.

Trump won an overwhelming 80 per cent of the white evangelical vote during the election, and a recent Pew Research Center survey marking his first 100 days in office - a milestone reached on April 29 - found three-fourths of white evangelicals approved of his performance as president.

"America is beginning a new chapter", he assured them.

Trump pledged during the campaign to do away with the Johnson Amendment, a part of the federal tax code that bars tax-exempt institutions - like Liberty - from directly endorsing political candidates.

He also applauded Trump's addition of anti-abortion advocate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the president's decision to launch a military strike against Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed Syrian civilians. And just give in because it was the easy way-it was the traditional way, or it was the accepted way.

Following a tumultuous week that saw the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Trump didn't waste time taking the opportunity to lay into his critics.

It has been a tradition for presidents in their first years in office to deliver commencement addresses at the University of Notre Dame, but thousands of students, faculty and alumni petitioned the university not to invite President Trump. President George H.W. Bush spoke at Liberty's commencement in May 1990. His planned visit to campus has still elicited controversy, particularly from LGBT rights groups.

Mr Trump had earlier criticised Mr Comey as a "showboat" and a "grandstander", and the president's warning prompted new accusations of interference with the FBI's Russian Federation investigation.

LU students have earned praise for their respectful treatment of high-profile liberal speakers in the past, including Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Tim Kaine.

Almost two-thirds of evangelicals hold a favorable view of Pence.

"In America, we don't worship government", Trump declared at one point.

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