'Did Mike make you pray?' Trump reportedly mocks Pence's 'religiosity'

·Senior Writer
Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Trump speaks to members of the media at the White House in July. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Trump speaks to members of the media at the White House in July. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Last week at the Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of Christian conservatives in Washington, D.C., President Trump pledged to stop “all attacks on Judeo-Christian values.”

But behind closed doors, Trump has been known to mock Vice President Mike Pence’s evangelical values, the New Yorker magazine reports in a lengthy profile of Pence published Monday. Pence’s office later rejected many of the articles’ claims as “untrue and offensive.”

A Trump campaign staffer told the magazine that after people met with Pence, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” (Since arriving at the White House, Pence has been hosting a regular Bible study group for members of Trump’s Cabinet.)

Trump also taunted Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality, according to the magazine:

During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy — he wants to hang them all!”

The profile also recounts some of the behind-the-scenes drama that preceded Trump’s selection of Pence to be his running mate.

Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman at that point, arranged for Trump to meet Pence, and urged Trump to pick him. Pence was seen as a bridge to Christian conservatives, an asset in the Midwest, and a connection to the powerful Koch network. Kellyanne Conway, who had done polling work for the Kochs, pushed for Pence, too, as did Stephen Bannon … Still, Trump remained wary. According to a former campaign aide, he was disapproving when he learned how little money Pence had. In 2004, the oil firm that Pence’s father had partly owned had filed for bankruptcy. Mike Pence’s shares of the company’s stock, which he had valued at up to a quarter of a million dollars, became worthless. In 2016, according to a campaign-finance disclosure form, Pence had one bank account, which held less than fifteen thousand dollars.

Trump was reportedly torn between Pence and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. And according to the magazine, Trump “came closer to picking Christie than is generally known”:

At dawn on July 13th, Ivanka and Don, Jr., flew to Indianapolis to join their father for breakfast with the Pences at the governor’s mansion. The Times soon reported that Trump had asked Pence if he would accept the job, and that Pence had responded, “In a heartbeat.” But the next night, according to someone familiar with the details, Trump called Christie and said, “I’ve got a question for you. Are you ready?” “Ready for what?” Christie responded. “Ready to do this with me,” Trump said. “Are you offering?” Christie said. “I’m asking you — but you’ve got to make sure you’re ready,” Trump said. “I’m as tough as they come,” Christie said. “O.K.,” Trump said. “I’m making the decision tomorrow. Stay by your phone.”

But Christie was left hanging for the next three days. He suspected that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner had intervened and turned Trump against him, because years earlier, as a U.S. Attorney, he had prosecuted Kushner’s father for tax fraud and other crimes. Conway told me that this theory was wrong, but acknowledged, “It truly was a tie—almost a jump ball.”

Lingering concerns over Christie’s role in the Bridgegate scandal broke the tie, the magazine said. That, and Pence also looked the part.

“They’re telling me I have to pick him,” Trump purportedly explained to Christie before announcing the Pence pick. “It’s central casting. He looks like a Vice-President.”

Reached for comment, Pence spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told Yahoo News: “Articles like this are why the American people have lost so much faith in the press. The New Yorker piece is filled with unsubstantiated, unsourced claims that are untrue and offensive.”

Trump speaks to reporters with Pence at his side in August. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Trump speaks to reporters with Pence at his side in August. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

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