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Turley: 'The Question Here Is Did the White House Knowingly Create a Video to Violate Federal Law'?

By Megan Williams | October 19, 2021 | 5:02pm EDT
Kamala Harris is campaigning for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. (Photo credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Kamala Harris is campaigning for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. (Photo credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley questioned whether Vice President Kamala Harris deliberately tried to violate the law by creating a video played to black Virginia churchgoers, urging them to vote for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. 

"The Biden Administration has to enforce our tax laws, including rules governing 501(c)3 organizations, including churches," Turley told Laura Ingraham on Monday's "The Ingraham Angle." "Now part of those regulations include what’s called the Johnson Amendment, and that prohibits direct politicking in churches in order to be tax-exempt." 

"If the White House participated in this plan to have direct politicking, they would have assisted in that violation. Now that puts them in a rather awkward position since their administration has to enforce this very rule."

[Clip]

Kamala Harris: “When I was growing up, we sang in the choir at Oakland’s 23rd Ave. Church of God. We were taught that it was our sacred responsibility to raise our voice and lift up the voices of our community....Virginians, you have the opportunity now to raise your voice through your vote because it’s election time. I believe that my friend, Terry McAuliffe, is the leader Virginia needs at this moment.”

[Clip Ends]

Laura Ingraham: “Now that, of course, was Vice President Kamala Harris’ virtual address to black churches across the commonwealth of Virginia yesterday that was piped in.

“Now apart from her, well, professed religiosity, Kamala’s get out the vote sermon has a serious problem: it might be illegal. 

“Joining me now is Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law professor, Fox News contributor. Professor Turley, both parties have appeared in churches at campaign seasons, that has happened. But what happened here with Kamala Harris that might run afoul of the regs or the law?” 

Jonathan Turley: “Well the Biden Administration has to enforce our tax laws, including rules governing 501(c)3 organizations, including churches. 

“Now part of those regulations include what’s called the Johnson Amendment, and that prohibits direct politicking in churches in order to be tax-exempt. 

“So, if churches play this video, they would be in violation of federal law. If the White House participated in this plan to have direct politicking, they would have assisted in that violation. Now that puts them in a rather awkward position since their administration has to enforce this very rule. 

Ingraham: “Well, Merrick Garland is focusing on the Jan. 6 grandmas and grandpas to make sure they stay in whatever type of confinement they’re in. But she did give explicit instructions, professor, on how churchgoers could actually vote. Watch this. 

[Clip]

Harris: “Early voting has already started and this is the first year that you can vote on Sunday. So please, vote after today’s service, and if you cannot vote today, make a plan to go vote. Go to iwillvote.com.”

[Clip End]

Ingraham: “Now, Professor Turley, this is always called the souls to the polls. Pushing voters to a specific website? Now does that bring more problems to them if we had a Justice Department or an IRS prosecutorial arm that was actually going to do something?”

Turley: “Well, it’s an extraordinary video because the White House could always argue that ‘we just made the video; the violators are the churches who decided to play them.’ But that doesn’t quite work when the video is referencing churches and their services and saying go directly from church to vote.  

“So the question here is did the White House knowingly create a video to violate federal law? Now clearly, they’re not the ones that would lose their tax-exempt status; it’d be churches if this were ever fully enforced. But there’s a serious problem if you’re encouraging these violations. What’s interesting, Laura, is President Trump really did not like the Johnson Amendment, insisted that he was going to get rid of it. 

“And when he did, many Democrats, many legal experts cried foul, and they said this is destroying the separation of church and state, this is encouraging the violation of federal law. And yet, after this video played, there was nothing but crickets from many of those areas.”

Ingraham: “Well, I think they’re obviously very concerned about what’s happening in some of these polls and they’re pulling out all the stops: getting Obama to campaign there and others. Professor Turley, it’s great to see you, thank you."

Megan Williams is a CNSNews intern and junior at Hillsdale College. She is majoring in Rhetoric and Public Address with a Journalism minor. She is the assistant opinions editor for the Hillsdale Collegian and enjoys covering local events, from concerts to conventions. Born and raised in Southern California, Megan is excited to experience D.C. and grow as a journalist with CNSNews.

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