- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 22, 2019

President Trump began the holiday break by hosting an Amish delegation in the Oval Office, the first time members of the reclusive community have received that honor.

They might be an odd pairing — the brash and extravagant billionaire president and the humble Amish — but they enjoy a kinship in their Christian faith and work ethic, the Amish visitors told The Washington Times.

“He is a common man just like me and everybody else — very common, very friendly. He called us friends when we walked in there,” said Levi Miller, 56, an Amish farmer from Ohio. “It gets people excited that we have somebody in there who is not afraid to talk about Jesus Christ.”

Mr. Miller was among four Amish businessmen from Ohio who sat down for an exclusive interview with The Times following their Oval Office visit Friday, where they also met Vice President Mike Pence, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and other top White House officials.

The Amish men described themselves as strong supporters of Mr. Trump and each denounced the House Democrats’ impeachment of the president as a waste of taxpayer money.

“We read the newspaper and it is just ‘impeachment this’ and ‘impeachment that.’ It’s a lot of hogwash,” said Ben Hostetler, 51, a woodworker. “What they are blaming Trump for is what they did themselves.”

The Amish businessmen credit Mr. Trump with fostering a robust economy, protecting religious freedom and adhering to conservative values.

Mr. Miller said the Amish experience the good economic times that Mr. Trump has ushered in, and many will back him in 2020.

“What we see happening at home. Everybody is upbeat. The stock market, everything is up — the economy, the jobs are available,” he said. “The only thing that’s [difficult] about it is you can’t get anybody to work for you. Everybody is working.”

The historic White House meeting also included two Amish business leaders from Pennsylvania and two from Indiana. It was organized by Chris Cox, the founder of the activist group Bikers for Trump, who is also a candidate in the crowded GOP primary in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District.

For the past two years, Mr. Cox has been working to increase political involvement among Trump supporters in Amish communities, many of which are located in key 2020 presidential battlegrounds such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Neither Washington politicos nor members of the Amish community could recall a previous Oval Office reception for the Amish, though President Woodrow Wilson welcomed an Amish minister to the White House for a prayer service during World War I.

As they approached the Oval Office, Mr. Trump shooed away the press who were assembled for a holiday send-off and heralded the arrival of his Amish “friends,” a gesture that impressed the visitors.

The president and the Amish men discussed matters of faith and the upcoming Christmas celebration. Mr. Trump praised the skill and diligence of Amish workers, recalling how Amish contractors had erected a red barn on one of his properties and completed the job in two days.

Mr. Trump told them that he was impressed by the craftsmanship and how the barn was constructed with wooden pegs instead of nails.

Gesturing to the ornate woodwork of the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said the Amish could do a better job.

The remark drew protests from the unassuming Amish men.

“We ain’t better. No. No,” said Mr. Hostetler, the woodworker.

Joe Hostetler, a 56-year-old cabinet maker who is not related to Ben, explained that the group does not seek accolades, which included not wanting to be seen as boasting about their White House meeting.

“We are Amish people. We are not big people. We are not out people that are going to draw attention to ourselves,” he said.

The Amish, who are known for using horse-drawn buggies, maintain a culture of living simply, dressing plainly and avoiding modern technology. It is a way of life, not a religion, though they follow a traditionalist Christian faith.

The Amish men said they do not harbor any misconception that Mr. Trump is an overly religious man, but they said he shared their Christian ethos and was moving the country in the right direction.

“His faith is changing. It is so much easier, it might sound a little bit rude, but it is so much easier to pray for a government that is doing something in the right direction,” Mr. Hostetler said.

They said Mr. Trump’s businessman ways, something to which they could relate, was what the country had long needed in the White House. It is the same sentiment expressed by many of the voters who backed Mr. Trump in 2016.

“From a business standpoint, he’s doing a wonderful job. That’s what we’ve needed for how many years. How long did the United States need a businessman in there to run the country, to get it going in the direction that we are taking now?” said Eli Hostetler, 60, a grain farmer and chicken grower.

Eli and Ben Hostetler are brothers.

The Amish men said they respected that Mr. Trump was a man of his word, echoing the president’s campaign slogan of “promises made, promises kept.”

“We, especially in our community, look up to somebody when they say something they are going to do, and it is going to happen,” said Joe Hostetler.

After the Oval Office meeting, Mr. Pence escorted the men to his office for some more discussions and prayers.

“You walked in there, there was the Bible, laying open, well used,” Mr. Miller said. “He did a prayer for us. The vice president, standing in his room, doing a prayer. If that is not a humbling experience.”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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