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Former Trump staffer leading Capitol Hill Christian outreach

William Russell became the center's executive director in 2024. D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship

Former Trump staffer leading Capitol Hill Christian outreach

William Russell recently took the helm of the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship in Washington, also called CCS, as the new executive director. The organization is an outreach ministry to those in positions of influence on Capitol Hill. Founded in 1995 by the late pastor D. James Kennedy, CCS trains leaders in Washington to apply their faith to their work.

In addition to hosting Bible studies, leadership training, and briefings about policy or worldview topics, the organization also recognizes a distinguished Christian statesman each year. CCS most recently honored Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., with its award in 2023.

How did Russell get his start on Capitol Hill? In 2014, Russell worked as an intern for Sen. Thad Cochran, a Republican from his home state of Mississippi. Later that year, Russell joined the staff of Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., for whom he worked until the congressman passed away in February 2015. He worked in the office until he was hired as a personal aid to Dr. Ben Carson for his presidential campaign.

Russell joined former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign after Carson dropped out of the presidential race. After the election, Trump appointed him to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he later became a special assistant to the president and managed Trump’s travels as trip director at the White House.

What led him to the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship? “After Trump lost in 2020, I went on to Florida with him,” Russell said. The former president asked Russell to work for him in a personal capacity. The relocation led him to link up with Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and the Rev. Robert Pacienza, the president and CEO of the center’s parent organization, Coral Ridge Ministries.

Russell testified in 2023 before a federal grand jury investigating Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith’s allegations that Trump tried to subvert the results of the 2020 election. The details of Russell’s testimony have not been made public, and he declined to comment about his testimony since the proceedings are ongoing.

“God is sovereign through it all,” he told WORLD.

What are some of his goals at CCS? Activity at the center had “kind of died down” since the COVID-19 epidemic, Russell said. Now, its structure is changing to focus on educating government employees.

“There are a lot of staffers out there who … they are going to church, they go to church on Sunday, and the rest of the week they live their life. I say that as a recovering staffer,” Russell said. “They find it hard to translate their faith on Sundays directly into the work they’re doing.”

He added that CCS is not lobbying on Capitol Hill for a piece of legislation, but he sees it as the center’s responsibility to “encourage staffers that are there to apply what they know to be true” to their daily work.

Practically speaking, Russell hopes to host speakers to meet with congressional staffers and encourage them to apply Biblical truth to their work. Coral Ridge Ministries staff also plan to write papers dissecting what the Bible says on specific political and social topics for the staffers, he said.

What are your organization’s current needs? Russell has two prayer requests. One, that CCS continues to receive the support it needs, and second, for the people with whom the ministry is engaging. “Our prayer is that they not only hear what we’re saying but that they have the strength to implement what we’re talking about,” he said.

Lauren Canterberry

Lauren Canterberry is a reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the World Journalism Institute and the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, both in 2017. She worked as a local reporter in Texas and now lives in Georgia with her husband.

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