Greg Baylor, a senior lawyer with the group, which has been among those privately advising the Justice Department, called Mr. Sessions’ remarks “very encouraging.”
In addition to Mr. Sessions, a number of lesser-known officials on his staff are shaping the new direction, according to former officials briefed on the matter.
Among them is Rachel Brand, the department’s third highest ranking official behind Mr. Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Ms. Brand has deep conservative credentials. Once active in the Federalist Society, she worked for the George W. Bush campaign on the 2000 presidential vote recount in Florida, and then in his Justice Department, where she guided the Supreme Court nominees John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. through the Senate confirmation process.
Ms. Brand, a political appointee, has also served on the agency’s deregulation team, which was ordered by President Trump in February to identify regulations to eliminate.
Another official, Hashim Mooppan, has been involved in cases in which the Justice Department has taken a conservative pivot. Mr. Mooppan, a deputy assistant attorney general overseeing appeals cases, joined the department after Mr. Trump became president.
Since then, Mr. Mooppan helped defend President Trump’s travel ban and was among the Justice Department officials who signed the brief in July that intervened in the sex discrimination case in New York. Before joining the Justice Department, he had clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, and in private practice he worked on a major challenge to the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court.
With so many like-minded officials in influential government roles — and a newfound willingness by the administration to listen to their concerns — social conservatives say they see an unparalleled era of cooperation under President Trump.
Travis Wussow, vice president for public policy at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said this was a welcome change after his group had been involved in court battles over Obama administration policies.
“I don’t anticipate having to use litigation as a tool under this administration,” he said.
The “New Normal”
Richard Land, president of the conservative Christian Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina, has worked with Republican administrations dating from Ronald Reagan. Never has he felt his advice and input were more welcome in the White House since Mr. Trump became president.
Mr. Land described “regular, ongoing and continuing dialogue” with the Trump administration, in emails, phone calls and meetings. In May, on the eve of a National Day of Prayer, Mr. Land and other religious leaders were invited for dinner at the White House, which included a tour of the Truman Balcony, and he later recalled a conversation he had with a fellow evangelical leader who attended.
“You know Richard,” the fellow attendee said, “I have been coming here for three decades, and I no longer feel like the redheaded stepchild at the family reunion or the company picnic. I feel like a respected colleague and guest.”
Since taking office, President Trump and his top staff have gone to great lengths to cultivate the ties that he built with social conservatives during his campaign. He delivered a commencement speech at the conservative Liberty University and addressed the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference, saying, “We will always support our evangelical community.”
Some of the groups have a particular rapport with Ms. Conway, whose client list in her private consulting business included dozens of conservative groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List and the National Right to Life Committee. The White House granted Ms. Conway a waiver to continue communicating with the groups as a White House employee.
The religious and conservative leaders say the access across the administration is bearing fruit.
They sought — and the State Department granted — a ban on American government aid to health organizations worldwide that perform or actively promote abortions, expanding a policy that began under President Reagan. Mr. Land, in written responses to questions from The Times, said the expansion of restrictions “exceeded our recommendations and expectations.”
In mid-July, the administration invited religious leaders to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for a day of meetings. Over six hours, there were briefings from White House staff members who also took questions, and notable appearances from high-ranking officials, including the vice president.
During the session, attendees advocated the appointment of an “ambassador at large” to promote religious freedom in foreign policy, according to Mr. Moore, the Trump religious adviser, who attended the meeting. Within weeks, Mr. Trump appointed Sam Brownback, the conservative Republican governor of Kansas, to the position.
At the same meeting, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative religious lobbying group, broached the topic of banning transgender people from the military, Mr. Moore recalled, also adding that some participants disagreed with that stance. Some Republican members of Congress had been pushing for a similar prohibition, pointing to the medical costs of supporting transgender people. Again, within days of the meeting, Mr. Trump took action, announcing his transgender military ban.
The July meeting included the religious leaders being invited to the Oval Office, where they laid hands on Mr. Trump and prayed.
A month later, when the president was criticized over his response to the violence in Charlottesville, some religious leaders, like Mr. Land of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, stood by him.
“A leader presented with the challenges that President Trump is facing needs counsel and prayer from Bible-believing servants now more than ever,” he said in a statement issued on Aug 24. “Now is not the time to quit or retreat, but just the opposite — to lean in closer.”
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