Former aides say the in private, the president has talked with cynicism and contempt around believers.

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President Trump, Vice president Mike Pence, and also faith leader say a prayer in the Oval Office in September 2017. (Alex Wong / Getty)

One job in 2015, Donald trump beckoned Michael Cohen, his longtime confidant and an individual attorney, right into his office. Trump to be brandishing a printout of one article around an Atlanta-based megachurch pastor trying come raise $60 million indigenous his flock come buy a personal jet. Trump knew the preacher personally—Creflo Dollar had actually been amongst a group of evangelical numbers who visited him in 2011 while that was first exploring a presidential bid. During the meeting, Trump had reverently bowed his head in prayer when the pastors laid hands on him. Currently he was gleefully reciting the impious details that Dollar’s quest for a Gulfstream G650.

Trump appeared delighted through the “scam,” Cohen recalled come me, and eager to highlight that the pastor was “full of shit.” “They’re every hustlers,” trumped said.

The president’s alliance with spiritual conservatives has long been premised on the contention that he takes lock seriously, when Democrats host them in disdain. In speeches and also interviews, Trump consistently lavishes prayer on conservative Christians, spreading himself together their champion. “My administration will never ever stop fighting because that Americans of faith,” he declared at a rally because that evangelicals previously this year. That a post his project will seek to amplify in the coming weeks as Republicans work to check Amy Coney Barrett—a devout, conservative Catholic—to the can be fried Court.

But in private, numerous of Trump’s comments around religion are marked by cynicism and also contempt, follow to human being who have functioned for him. Former aides called me they’ve heard trump card ridicule conservative spiritual leaders, i disbanded various confidence groups v cartoonish stereotypes, and deride specific rites and doctrines hosted sacred by countless of the Americans that constitute his base.

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Reached for comment, a White residence spokesman stated that “people of belief know that President trumped is a champion for religious liberty and also the sanctity that life, and he has taken solid actions to support them and protect their liberty to worship. The president is likewise well well-known for joking and also his great sense the humor, i m sorry he shares with human being of every faiths.”

From the outset of his quick political career, Trump has viewed right-wing evangelical leaders as a kind of special-interest group to it is in schmoozed, conned, or to buy off, previous aides said me. Despite he confronted Republican primary enemies in 2016 through deeper spiritual roots—Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee—Trump was confident the his wealth and also celebrity would tempt high-profile Christian surrogates to vouch because that him.

“His check out was ‘I’ve been talking to these human being for years; i have let them continue to be at mine hotels—they’re gonna endorse me. Ns played the game,’” claimed a former campaign adviser come Trump, who, prefer others quoted in this story, speak on the condition of anonymity to define private conversations.

It assisted that Trump seemed to feeling a kinship v prosperity preachers—often evincing a game-recognizes-game evaluation for their hustle. The former project adviser recalled showing his ceo a YouTube video of the Israeli televangelist Benny Hinn performing “faith healings,” if Trump laugh at the spectacle and muttered, “Man, that’s part racket.” On an additional occasion, the torture told me, trump expressed awe in ~ Joel Osteen’s media empire—particularly the viewership of his televised sermons.

In Cohen’s recent memoir, Disloyal, he recounts Trump return from his 2011 meeting v the pastors who laid hands on him and also sneering, “Can you think that bullshit?” however if Trump found their rituals ridiculous, he adhered to their moneymaking ventures closely. “He was fully familiar with the organization dealings that the leadership in numerous prosperity-gospel churches,” the torture told me.

The conservative Christian elites Trump surrounding himself v have always been an ext clear-eyed about his absence of religiosity 보다 they’ve publicly let on. In a September 2016 conference with about a dozen influential numbers on the spiritual right—including the talk-radio hold Eric Metaxas, the Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, and the theologian Wayne Grudem—the then-candidate to be blunt around his partnership to Christianity. In a recording of the meeting obtained by The Atlantic, the candidate deserve to be heard shrugging off his scriptural ignorance (“I don’t know the Bible and some the the various other people”) and also joking about his inexperience v prayer (“The an initial time i met , the said, ‘Will girlfriend bow her head and pray?’ and also I said, ‘Excuse me?’ ns not supplied to it.”) in ~ one point in the meeting, trumped interrupted a conversation about spiritual freedom to complain around Senator Ben Sasse that Nebraska and also brag about the taunting nickname that devised for him. “I call him small Ben Sasse,” trump card said. “I have to do it, ns sorry. That’s as soon as my religion constantly deserts me.”

And yet, through the finish of the meeting—much that which was spent pointing out the urgency of preventing trans ladies from using women’s restrooms—the candidate had the group eating out of his hand. “I’m not voting because that Trump to it is in the teacher that my 3rd grader’s Sunday-school class. That’s no what he’s running for,” Jeffress said in the meeting, adding, “I believe it is command … that us do everything we have the right to to turn people out.”

The Faustian nature that the spiritual right’s bargain with Trump has actually not always been quite so obvious to rank-and-file believers. According to the Pew research Center, white evangelicals are much more than double as likely as the average American to say that the chairman is a spiritual man. Some conservative pastors have defined him as a “baby Christian,” and insist the he’s welcomed Jesus Christ as his savior.

To those who have actually known and worked through Trump closely, the notion that he could have a an enig spiritual side is laughable. “I constantly assumed he was an atheist,” Barbara Res, a former executive in ~ the trumped Organization, said me. “He’s not a spiritual guy,” A. J. Delgado, who worked on his 2016 campaign, called me. “Whenever I check out a snapshot of that standing in a group of pastors, every one of their hands on him, I see a believed bubble the words what suckers,’” mar Trump, the president’s niece, told me.

Greg Thornbury, a former president that the evangelical king College, that was courted through the project in 2016, told me that also those who identify Trump’s absence of an individual piety are persuaded that the holds their faith in high esteem. “I don’t think because that a moment that they would believe he’s cynical about them,” Thornbury said.

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Trump’s public appeals come Jewish voters have been an in similar way discordant v his exclusive comments. Last week, The Washington Post reported the after calls through Jewish lawmakers, the president has actually said that Jews “are only in it for themselves.” and also while that is fast to tout his daughter Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism when he’s speaking to Jewish audiences, the is sometimes much less effusive in private. Cohen told me that once, years ago, the was through Trump as soon as his wife, Melania, notified him the their child was at a playdate with a Jewish girl native his school. “Great,” Trump stated to Cohen, that is Jewish. “I’m going come lose another one the my kids to your people.”

One religious group that the Trump project is keenly fixated on this year is Mormons. In 2016, members of the Church that Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rubbish the Republican ticket in unprecedented numbers. To victory them over in 2020, the project has make Donald trumped Jr. That is envoy, sending out him to project in Utah and also other Mormon-heavy states. The president’s kid has grew relationships v high-profile conservative in the faith. Earlier this year, he invoked Mormon pioneers in a contact with reporters to define his father’s “innovative spirit.”

In fact, according to two an elderly Utah republic with understanding of the situation, Don Jr. Has been so savvy in courting Latter-day Saints—expressing interest in the Church’s history, analysis from the book of Mormon—that he is left some significant Republicans in the state through the impression the he may want come convert. (A spokesman because that Don Jr. Did no respond come a inquiry for comment.)

I’ve to be curious about the president’s opinion the Mormonism ever due to the fact that I interviewed the in 2014 at Mar-a-Lago. During our conversation, Trump started to strenuously argue that Mitt Romney’s exotic belief had expense him the 2012 election. When I interrupted to educate him that I’m likewise a Mormon, he quickly changed tack—extolling mine Church’s countless virtues, and also then switching subjects. (He remained committed to his theory around 2012: throughout his September 2016 meeting with evangelical leaders, Trump repetitively asserted the “Christians” didn’t revolve out because that Romney “because of the Mormon thing.”) I’ve constantly wondered what Trump might have stated if ns hadn’t cut him off.

When I mutual this story through Cohen, the laughed. Trump, he said, commonly made fun of Romney’s belief in private—and was particularly vicious when he learned about the spiritual undergarments worn by plenty of Latter-day Saints. “Oh mine god,” Cohen said. “How numerous times go he carry up Mitt Romney and also the undergarments …”