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U.S. State Department Nominee Tillerson Fights Climate Deposition

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Rex Tillerson, the former oil executive under consideration for U.S. secretary of state, is trying to avoid giving testimony in a federal lawsuit over climate change, according to a lawyer for a group of teenagers who filed the suit.

Lawyers for the teenagers, who sued the federal government claiming it violated their constitutional rights by causing global warming, were scheduled to depose Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, in his capacity as a board member of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group.

The lawyers planned to ask Tillerson when he first learned of the impact the burning of fossil fuels was having on the Earth’s atmosphere.

His answers might then be used to prove the government, working with the energy and manufacturing industries, continued to allow activities harmful to the environment despite knowing the risks to future generations, said Julia Olson, a lawyer in Eugene, Oregon, who is executive director of Our Children’s Trust and representing the teenagers.

Tillerson’s deposition was set for Jan. 19, a day before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

But Olson said the API’s lawyers told her in a letter that Tillerson should not have to testify because he is no longer affiliated with the group. Her team has asked API to prove Tillerson had left the group on Dec. 28, when they sent notice of their intent to depose him.

“If he was still on the board on the date of notice of deposition, he can still be deposed,” Olson said.

The lawsuit, brought in federal court in Oregon, says the U.S. government helped to cause climate change through its policies, thus denying a group of young people their constitutional right to life, liberty and property.

The API and two other industry groups intervened in the case, claiming a judgment requiring the government to tighten environmental regulations would harm their business interests.

Tillerson announced he was retiring from ExxonMobil on Dec. 14, a day after Trump announced his nomination as secretary of state. The API has not announced any change to Tillerson’s role in its organization, but its president released a statement congratulating Tillerson on his nomination on Dec. 13.

An API spokesman, lawyers for the API and a spokesman for the Trump transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Juliana v. U.S., U.S. District Court, District of Oregon (Eugene), No. 15-cv-01517.

(This version of the story was refiled to say the API’s lawyers told her in a letter, not that they told her by telephone, in paragraph six)

(Reporting By Emily Flitter; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

IMAGE: Rex Tillerson (C), the former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, comes to testify before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. secretary of state in Washington, U.S. January 11, 2017.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Separation Anxiety: Trump’s Management Style Poses Challenges In Oval Office

NEW YORK (Reuters) – It has proven one of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths in building a worldwide luxury brand: An obsessive attention to detail, down to the curtains hanging in hotel rooms and the marble lining the lobby floor.

As president, it may prove one of his major liabilities, presidential historians warn.

Interviews with a dozen people familiar with how Trump conducts business reveal the president-elect as a micromanager who regularly spars over details about decor in projects across his real estate and branding empire.

“I’m very much involved in the details,” Trump said during a June deposition in a lawsuit stemming from his development of a Washington hotel. “I was involved in the design of the building and the room sizes and the entrances and the lobby and the marble and the bathrooms and the fixtures and the bars and a lot of things.”

Trump announced on Wednesday that he would leave his businesses “in total” so that he could focus on the presidency. But those who have worked with him say a lifetime habit of micromanaging may be difficult to break, providing ammunition for critics who say his decisions as president will be driven by his private interests.

A former employee of the Trump Organization who has worked closely with Trump was skeptical that he could leave behind his beloved company after spending decades building it up. “I can’t picture him stepping aside for the presidency,” the ex-employee said.

Even if he does make a clean break, Trump will have to guard against getting bogged down in the bureaucratic minutiae inherent in the office. He should avoid the example of President Jimmy Carter, another famous micromanager, who spent his first months in office poring over the White House tennis court schedule, said Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University.

Micromanagers rarely make successful presidents, said Rick Ghere, an associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton in Ohio. To be effective, presidents must delegate authority to members of their cabinet and rely on a range of expertise, he said.

“Being a decisionmaker in a high-level public position is a lot different than being a CEO,” Ghere said.

RUINED WINDOWS

Trump has said he will turn the Trump Organization over to his three adult children, who are already deeply involved in real estate projects around the world.

His daughter Ivanka, for instance, was charged with overseeing the renovation of Washington’s Old Post Office Pavilion, a $200 million project to turn the historic building into a luxury hotel. In cases where Trump has delegated authority, he still demonstrates a deep reluctance to let go, even when it comes to seemingly trivial details.

Two people who participated in an inspection of the Washington hotel with Trump shortly before he announced his candidacy in June 2015 remember the businessman growing incensed over a detail: The restoration of exterior windows.

Trump said the windows looked terrible, though one of the sources recounting the story said there didn’t seem to be anything obviously wrong with them. He demanded the contractor not be paid but was told the work had been done for free in the hopes of getting more business from the Trumps, according to the source.

That source and two others on the project also recalled hearing Ivanka say she needed her father’s approval before signing off on some decisions she wanted to make on the project. The sources said it was not uncommon for her to say she would “run this by my father” or “check with New York.”

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Trump is “incredibly detail oriented as any great developer is, something he shares with his adult children including Ivanka.”

Trump’s reluctance to step aside from his company was apparent in a New York Times interview last week in which he said, “in theory I could run my business perfectly, and then run the country perfectly.”

HOW TALL ARE THE TREES?

Trump’s reputation as a micromanager dates back to some of his earliest building projects.

In her 2013 book ‘All Alone on the 68th Floor’, Barbara Res, who oversaw construction of Trump Tower in Manhattan, described her boss in 1983 agonizing over the height and thickness of decorative trees in the building’s atrium.

Three decades later, Trump would bring his management style to the presidential campaign trail. Three sources who worked on the campaign said Trump made almost all the decisions on spending, strategy, and messaging.

According to the sources, senior campaign officials were desperate to get aboard the candidate’s plane early on in the presidential race, fearful if they were left behind he would change course on strategy and they would be shut out.

When Paul Manafort, who was helping run Trump’s campaign, secured the candidate’s authorization to spend $20 million hiring field operatives, he was triumphant, according to a Republican National Committee member, recounting an RNC meeting with Manafort in April.

The committee member though was perplexed – why had Manafort needed Trump’s approval for an expenditure on such an essential part of his campaign, and why was the amount so small? At that point in an election year, past candidates had already begun spending upwards of $80 million on the same thing.

Manafort told Reuters that while it was true most candidates simply signed off on a budget rather than reviewing each expenditure, Trump was different because he was partly funding his campaign. “I understood it and totally agreed with that approach,” Manafort said.

Later in the campaign, Trump was still agonizing over details. In October, he insisted on reviewing the script of a radio ad that was to be broadcast on stations with predominantly black audiences, according to a source inside the campaign.

Micromanaging is not necessarily a recipe for disaster – presidents like Abraham Lincoln, Carter and Barack Obama gained reputations as micromanagers, said Nancy Koehn, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies the history of leadership in the United States.

But Koehn said a micromanager with a lack of any government experience was a potentially toxic combination.

“I think it is highly likely that diving into areas in which he has very little experience without an extraordinary cast of experts around him will result in poor policy decisions which will have large unintended consequences,” she said.

Only two of Trump’s nominees so far have U.S. federal executive branch experience, although the lineup does include a state governor, several U.S. lawmakers, and a former Goldman Sachs executive.

(Reporting By Emily Flitter, editing by Paul Thomasch and Ross Colvin)

IMAGE: U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a Hispanic Town Hall meeting with supporters in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump Praises ‘Stop-And-Frisk’ Police Tactic

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, in remarks at an African-American church on Wednesday, praised “stop-and-frisk” policing methods that have aroused protests and successful legal challenges, for singling out minorities.

The anti-crime tactic in which police stop, question and search pedestrians for weapons or contraband, gained traction in New York City under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now a top Trump supporter.

But opposition to the practice led police departments in New York, as well as Chicago and Newark, New Jersey, to agree to cut back on its use, in some cases submitting to outside monitoring and improving police training.

“I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to,” Trump said, according to excerpts of a Fox News “town hall” in Cleveland, after a listener asked what he would do to reduce crime in predominantly black communities across the nation.

“I see what’s going on here, I see what’s going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk. In New York City it was so incredible, the way it worked,” he added.

Ending the practice in New York was a key plank of Democrat Bill de Blasio’s successful 2013 run for mayor.

As the race between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton tightens ahead of the Nov. 8 election, he has been reaching out to African-American voters, shown by opinion polls to largely favor Clinton.

Trump has portrayed himself as the “law-and-order candidate.” But Clinton has criticized many of his proposals as unconstitutional attacks on American freedoms.

Clinton’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s statement.

“Stop and frisk” had saved lives and reduced crime in New York City under Giuliani, the Trump campaign said in a statement.

“Mr. Trump believes that a locally tailored version of ‘stop and frisk’ should be used in Chicago to help reduce skyrocketing violence and make our Chicago safe again,” spokesman Jason Miller said.

‘WE ARE VICTIMS’

Anger over police tactics has risen as their fatal encounters with African-Americans, many of them unarmed, have sparked protests and unrest across the country.

In his appeal to African-American voters, Trump has lamented the woes of black communities, asking those who traditionally vote Democratic to take a chance on him. But his often dire portrayals of their lives have left some black voters unmoved.

Connie Tucker, a pastor at Father Heart Ministries in Columbus, Ohio, said she liked policies that brought results, so if stop-and-frisk helped cut crime, she backed it.

But Tucker, who is white, said she sensed discomfort in the room at Trump’s remarks. “I felt like there was a pause,” she said.

Another attendee, Geoff Betts, 38, who is black, said he felt dismayed by Trump’s response.

Betts, a hair products distributor, said he was registered to vote as an independent and attended to learn how Trump would try to win over black voters.

He said he thought police unfairly discriminated against black citizens and that he opposed stop-and-frisk.

“We are victims,” he said, adding that he had walked out of the meeting. “I just couldn’t take it anymore, I had to go. I don’t think that Donald Trump gets it.”

(Reporting by Emily Flitter, Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney and Clarence Fernandez)

Photo: Members of the clergy lay hands and pray over Donald Trump at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Trump Could Seek New Law To Purge Government Of Obama Appointees

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee DonaldTrump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump‘s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trumpdefeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

Christie was referring to Trump‘s starring role in the long-running television show “The Apprentice,” where his catch-phrase was “You’re fired!”

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump‘s transition advisers fear that Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants, who have more job security than officials who have been politically appointed. This would allow officials to keep their jobs in a new, possibly Republican, administration, Christie said.

“It’s called burrowing,” Christie said. “You take them from the political appointee side into the civil service side, in order to try to set up … roadblocks for your successor, kind of like when all the Clinton people took all the Ws off the keyboard when George Bush was coming into the White House.”

Christie was referring to pranks committed during the presidential transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush in 2001. During that period, some White House staffers removed the W key on computer keyboards and left derogatory signs and stickers in offices, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress.

“One of the things I have suggested to Donald is that we have to immediately ask the Republican Congress to change the civil service laws. Because if they do, it will make it a lot easier to fire those people,” Christie said.

He said firing civil servants was “cumbersome” and “time-consuming.”

There was no immediate comment from the American Federation of Government Employees, which is the largest federal employee union in the United States.

Christie also told the gathering that changing the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, long a target of Republicans concerned about over regulation, would be a top priority for Trump should he win in November.

Trump has previously vowed to eliminate the EPA and roll back some of America’s most ambitious environmental policies, actions that he says would revive the U.S. oil and coal industries and bolster national security.

Christie added that the Trump team wants to let businesspeople serve in government part time without having to give up their jobs in the private sector. Trump frequently says he is better equipped to be president because of his business experience.

Although Christie was repeatedly asked during the meeting, he declined to name any potential Cabinet picks. He said Trump was not ready to do that yet.

 

Reporting By Emily Flitter, editing by Caren Bohan and Ross Colvin

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump waves goodbye as he leaves the stage after his wife Melania concluded her remarks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Trump Defends ‘Star’ Tweet; Clinton Says It’s Anti-Semitic

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday defended a social media post he made two days earlier that included an image depicting Democratic rival Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of cash and a Star of David, while Clinton called the image anti-Semitic.

In a tweet on Monday, Trump said he had not meant the six-pointed star to refer to the Star of David, which is a symbol of Judaism. Rather, he said, the star could have referred to a sheriff’s badge, which is shaped similarly except for small circles at the ends of each of its six points, or a “plain star.”

The presumptive Republican nominee later released a statement saying Clinton’s criticism of the image was an attempt to distract the public from “the dishonest behavior of herself and her husband.”

He was referring to a heavily criticized private meeting last week between former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch as an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state nears a conclusion.

His tweet came after Mic News reported on Sunday that the image attacking Clinton – which included the words: “History made” and, inside the star, “most corrupt candidate ever!” – had been shared on a neo-Nazi web forum called /pol/. Reuters confirmed the image was posted there on June 22 by viewing a link to an archived version of a /pol/ page, although the page has since been updated and the image removed.

“Donald Trump’s use of a blatantly anti-Semitic image from racist websites to promote his campaign would be disturbing enough, but the fact that it’s a part of a pattern should give voters major cause for concern,” Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said in a statement emailed to reporters on Monday.

The Nazis forced Jews to wear a Star of David on their clothing to identify themselves during the Holocaust.

‘DISHONEST MEDIA’

Trump posted and deleted the tweet on Saturday, then tweeted a similar image in which the star was replaced by a circle. On Monday, he lashed out at journalists for continuing to report on the original tweet.

“Dishonest media is trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff’s Star, or plain star!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Saturday’s incident was the latest departure by Trump from a recent effort to appease Republicans worried about his brash public persona by trying to appear more restrained. The Republican convention, where Trump is expected to be named the party’s nominee for the Nov. 8 presidential election, is two weeks away.

In June, Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and began using a teleprompter to make speeches, hoping to show his campaign could be more inclusive after he aroused controversy by referring to some Mexicans crossing the U.S. border illegally as “rapists,” and his mocking of a disabled reporter, which Clinton has begun using in attack ads against him.

Ed Brookover, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said in an interview on CNN on Monday that the campaign felt it had “corrected” the issue about the star by deleting Trump’s original tweet.

Brookover said the image’s earlier appearance on the neo-Nazi forum was irrelevant.

“These images get posted and reposted and reposted on social media on many forums,” he said. “There was never any intention of anti-Semitism.”

 

(Reporting by Emily Flitter; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, Colorado, U.S., July 1, 2016. REUTERS/RICK WILKING

Trump Tweet Attacking Clinton Features Jewish Star

Republican presidential candidate DonaldTrump on Saturday tweeted an image of rival Hillary Clinton alongside hundred-dollar bills and a Jewish star bearing the words “most corrupt candidate ever!”, prompting outrage and bafflement on social media.

Two hours after his initial tweet, Trump tweeted a similar image in which the six-pointed Star of David – which appears on Israel’s flag and which Jews were forced to wear on their clothing by the Nazis during the Holocaust – was replaced by a circle. The original tweet was deleted.

Critics said the image featuring the star harkened back to centuries-old anti-Semitic stereotypes, such as the belief that Jews are greedy.

“Just saw #DonaldTrump‘s Star of David tweet. I’m impressed by his ability to find a way to insult literally every kind of human being,” screenwriter Cole Haddon wrote on Twitter.

“A Star of David, a pile of cash, and suggestions of corruption. DonaldTrump again plays to the white supremacists,” wrote Erick Erickson, a conservative radio host who has been critical of Trump.

The tweets originated from Trump‘s account, @realDonaldTrump, and no other users were mentioned in them. It was not clear whether someone inside Trump‘s campaign made the image or whether he found it somewhere else. Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, did not respond to a request for comment.

The presumptive Republican nominee has been trying to assuage fears within his own party that he is alienating potential voters with offensive statements about Muslims, Latinos and women. Last month, Trump fired his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and began delivering speeches using a teleprompter, an abrupt change in style that was seen as an attempt to appear more presidential ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

Saturday’s tweet was a reminder of the unrestrained side of Trump. The candidate has mocked a disabled newspaper reporter, referred to undocumented immigrants from Mexico as “rapists” and recently pointed to a black man in the crowd at one of his rallies and called him “my African-American.”

 

(Reporting by Emily Flitter; Editing by Mary Milliken and James Dalgleish)

Photo: Vox/ Twitter User @realDonaldTrump

Trump Fires Campaign Manager Lewandowski

This story was updated at 11:37 AM. 

By Emily Flitter and Emily Stephenson

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has parted ways with embattled campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a Trump spokeswoman said on Monday.

A source inside the campaign told Reuters on Monday that some staffers had not yet been notified that Lewandowski was out.

In a statement first sent to the New York Times, campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said, “The Donald J. Trump Campaign for President, which has set a historic record in the Republican primary having received almost 14 million votes, has today announced that Corey Lewandowski will no longer be working with the campaign.”

Lewandowski did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Lewandowski’s departure comes as Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has faced setbacks in the past two weeks. His renewed calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States have drawn heavy criticism from Republicans in Washington and prompted corporate sponsors like Apple and JPMorgan Chase to withhold funding from the party’s July nominating convention in Cleveland.

Lewandowski, a former New Hampshire field director for a conservative advocacy group, has been with Trump since the wealthy New York developer began his unconventional White House bid a year ago. He had spent the past several months in a power struggle with the more traditional Republican strategists Trump hired more recently to try to reshape his campaign operation.

Led by Paul Manafort, the team of veterans had been pressuring Trump to hire more staff and tone down his fiery public persona but their early efforts were rebuffed, campaign sources told Reuters. Manafort did not respond to a request for comment.

Lewandowski, who traveled to nearly every Trump rally, insisted in interviews that Trump’s unconventional campaign, with its shoestring budget, light staffing and miniscule fundraising apparatus, did not need to be changed because Trump’s massive victories in many primary elections early this year proved it was successful.

Lewandowski, known for his brusque manner, was accused of manhandling a female reporter in Florida during the primary campaign but the charge against him by a local sheriff was later dropped.

He is still scheduled to attend the Cleveland convention as the chairman of New Hampshire’s delegation.

 

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by W Simon and Bill Trott)

Corey Lewandowski, campaign manager for Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, talks on the phone at Trump’s five state primary night rally at the Trump Tower in New York City U.S., April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Trump ‘Needs All The Help He Can Get,’ Donors Say

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump often tells crowds at his campaign rallies that he doesn’t need outside financial support to get to the White House, but some of his fans are starting to feel differently.

Donors to an independent political spending group formed to promote Trump’s candidacy said in interviews on Sunday they were worried by reports describing the millions of dollars Trump’s opponents are spending to attack him.

They said they admired the billionaire businessman’s professed financial independence but thought a cash boost would help keep his fight for the Republican U.S. nomination fair. So 767 people sent in small sums – $25 here, $100 there – hoping it would help prepare him to face his many, moneyed foes.

“He needs all the help he can get,” said Diane Abair, 83, a real estate agent in Redding, California, who sent $50 to the group, Great America PAC.

She said she didn’t think her donation tarnished Trump’s claim that he won’t have to pander as president to any special interest groups because he’s not backed by big donors.

“I’m not somebody that he can be beholden to,” she said.

Trump is facing an onslaught of attacks from other Republicans alarmed by his success, even after controversial statements like his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Big donors who demurred for months have begun to spend heavily to defeat him.

This poses a new challenge for the candidate, who has so far spent less than his opponents. Between June and February, he loaned his campaign $24 million and raised nearly $10 million more from small donors.

Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokeswoman, did not respond to a request for comment.

Great America raised just under $74,000 during the first two months of 2016, according to regulatory filings. Its co-chair, Eric Beach, said it had taken in enough since then to commit to spending $1 million on pro-Trump ads. Beach, a California businessman and political strategist, gave $25,000.

“When it comes time for the general election I hope the PAC has got some money left because he’s going to need it,” said Scott Abadie, 54, a veterinarian in New Orleans who donated $100 to Great America PAC.

The group gives $5 of each donation it receives directly to Trump’s campaign. According to co-founder Amy Kremer, this allows each donor to be named individually on financial reports.

“They too can be recognized for even a small donation,” she said.

 

(Reporting By Emily Flitter; Additional reporting by Grant Smith in NEW YORK; Editing by Caren Bohan and Paul Tait)

Photo: Campaign buttons for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are shown outside a campaign event in Tucson, Arizona March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich

Vatican To Trump: It’s Not ‘Personal,’ It’s Religion

By Emily Flitter

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (Reuters) – The Vatican on Friday tried to tamp down a firestorm ignited by Pope Francis’ comments assailing Donald Trump’s views on U.S. immigration as “not Christian”, assuring the Republican presidential front-runner that it was not a personal attack or attempt to influence the U.S. campaign.

Francis told reporters during a conversation on his flight home from Mexico on Thursday, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump has said if elected president, he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep immigrants from illegally entering the United States.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio the pope’s comments, in response to a reporter’s question on Trump, were an affirmation of his longstanding belief that migrants should be helped and not shut out. He said the pope believed people “should build bridges, not walls”.

“In no way was this a personal attack, nor an indication of how to vote,” Lombardi said.

Trump, who leads Republican candidates in opinion polls, lashed out on Thursday, dismissing the pope’s remarks as “disgraceful” for questioning his faith.

“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS (Islamic State), which as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” Trump said.

Later, during a television appearance, he rowed back, calling Francis “a wonderful guy.”

EXCHANGE MAKES HEADLINES

The extraordinary exchange between the billionaire real estate developer and leader of the world’s 1.25 billion Roman Catholics, which occurred days before Saturday’s Republican nominating contest in South Carolina, was headline news around the world.

On Friday, New York’s Daily News gave it the front page. Against a backdrop of an image of Trump, a headline blared: Anti Christ! The New York Post ran a front page photo of Trump and the pope wearing boxing gloves with the headline: Trump & pope: Bible belters.

It was unclear what, if any, effect the tussle might have on the vote in South Carolina, a conservative state that is home to many evangelical Protestant Christians.

Patrick Hornbeck, chairman of the department of theology at Fordham University in New York, said on Thursday that Francis’ words were not surprising given the poverty he had just seen in Mexico.

“There is very little common ground between Pope Francis and Donald Trump,” Hornbeck said. He predicted the pope’s words on electoral politics would have little effect on any U.S. Catholics who liked Trump as a candidate.

At a CNN town hall in Columbia, South Carolina, on Thursday night, Trump said he had “a lot of respect” for Francis but that the pope had been influenced by hearing only Mexico’s side of the border issue. The pope’s statement also had been exaggerated by the media, he said.

“I think he said something much softer than it was originally reported by the media,” Trump said.

Earlier on Thursday, Thomas Groome, director of the Boston College Center on the Church in the 21st Century, said Francis’ comments were entirely in keeping with his focus on mercy.

“The pope is commissioned to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s his job,” Groome said. “So when he was asked a direct question, he gave Trump the benefit of the doubt, he said we have to be sure he said this, but if he said this, it is not Christian.”

(Reporting by Emily Flitter; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

Photo: Pope Francis waves at faithful during a meeting with people at the School for College Graduates of Chihuahua, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, February 17, 2016. Picture taken on February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano Handout via Reuters