President Donald Trump allegedly called evangelical pastors “hustlers” during a conversation with his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, according to a report by The Atlantic published Tuesday.
Cohen told the magazine that Trump made the comments before the 2016 elections after reading an article about pastor Creflo Dollar raising money from followers for a private jet and appeared excited by the “scam.” He reportedly told Cohen that the pastor was “full of shit.”’
“They’re all hustlers,” the president said, according to the publication.
In public, the president has praised conservative Christian leaders throughout his campaigns and his presidency. He has earned their respect by appointing a large batch of conservative judges to federal courts. But in private, people who have worked for Trump told The Atlantic the president expressed cynicism and contempt with his remarks on religion.
Former aides told the magazine that they heard the president mock conservative religious leaders, dismiss faith groups with stereotypes and scoff at the rites and doctrines of several faith groups.
The aides also said Trump sees evangelical leaders as a group to be “schmoozed, conned, or bought off,” according to The Atlantic.
During the 2016 election, Trump was confident in securing the support of religious voters through high-profile Christians.
“His view was ‘I’ve been talking to these people for years; I’ve let them stay at my hotels — they’re gonna endorse me. I played the game,’” a former campaign adviser said.
The adviser said he showed Trump a YouTube clip of an Israeli televangelist conducting “faith healings,” which the president laughed at and said, “Man, that’s some racket.”
Cohen also recalled comments from Trump after pastors laid hands on him in 2011 saying, “Can you believe that bullshit?”
However, the president took an interest in churches that follow the prosperity gospel and raise lots of money.
“He was completely familiar with the business dealings of the leadership in many prosperity-gospel churches,” the adviser told The Atlantic.