Furious after he was criticized by evangelicals for stumbling in his reference to a book of the Bible during the 2016 campaign, Donald J. Trump lashed out at “so-called Christians” and used an epithet in describing them to a party official, according to a new book.
Mr. Trump’s anger was aroused after he stumbled in an appearance at Liberty University by referring to Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians” as he was competing for the votes of evangelicals — traditionally critical to a Republican’s success in the Iowa caucuses — with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
Allies of Mr. Cruz’s, including Bob Vander Plaats, a well-known evangelical leader in Iowa, seized on the slip-up to taunt Mr. Trump.
According to a new book, “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump,” by Tim Alberta, the chief political correspondent for Politico Magazine, Mr. Trump was incensed by Mr. Vander Plaats and others “hanging around with Ted,” and referred to them in the most vulgar of terms.
Evangelical voters make up a core constituency for Mr. Trump. Without their support, he would not have won the presidency, his advisers acknowledge. And the president has sought ways to engage those supporters.
For his part, in 2016, Mr. Cruz was candid with friends about his view of evangelicals who backed Mr. Trump. “If you’re a faithful person, if you believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins, emerged from the grave three days later and gives eternal life, and you’re supporting Donald Trump,” the book quotes Mr. Cruz saying to friends, “I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with you.”
Mr. Cruz won the caucuses by a small margin, following questionable tactics that the Cruz campaign used against a third candidate, Ben Carson. When Mr. Cruz won, Mr. Trump, aboard his private plane, called the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, Jeff Kaufmann, and said, “I think you need to publicly disavow the result.” When Mr. Kaufmann said he could not do that, Mr. Trump was quiet for a moment, and then repeated: “You should disavow the result. Think about it, will you?”
Mr. Cruz was the last candidate standing against Mr. Trump deep into the primary election season. Mr. Trump clinched the nomination after the Indiana primary in May 2016, but some of his detractors within the Republican Party still hoped to persuade delegates to back Mr. Cruz at the national convention in Ohio that summer. That effort failed.
Since then, the two have joined forces, and Mr. Cruz has at times vociferously defended Mr. Trump. But the book goes into extensive detail on the various smears and humiliations of both Mr. Cruz and his wife, Heidi, that Mr. Trump doled out. That included extensive efforts by The National Enquirer, run by Mr. Trump’s ally David J. Pecker, to dig up dirt on Mr. Cruz.
Mr. Alberta’s book traces the history of Mr. Trump’s rise and ties it to the undulations within the Republican Party going back to the days of President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. Among those he interviewed for the book were Mr. Trump and the two most recent Republican House speakers, John A. Boehner and Paul D. Ryan.
The book demonstrates how Mr. Trump took over the Republican Party, turning it into a reflection of him, in what some party leaders viewed as a Faustian bargain made to accomplish certain policy outcomes.
The book describes Mr. Trump outsourcing policymaking to congressional leaders, and describes “craven acquiescence” by Republican officials when Mr. Trump did things that they would normally have objected to, such as instituting a travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries soon after his inauguration.
The role of faith for both the Republican electorate and for Mr. Trump, as he sought to lead his party, is a recurring theme throughout the book.
Mr. Boehner is quoted saying that the choice of Mike Pence, who was an emissary for Mr. Trump with evangelical voters, as Mr. Trump’s running mate was critical to the 2016 victory.
“Pence was exactly what he needed because he was the antithesis of Trump: a solid Christian conservative who the evangelicals loved,” Mr. Boehner said, noting that there was something in it for Mr. Pence, who at the time was facing a difficult re-election race as the governor of Indiana.
“Pence needed Trump. Here’s a guy who’s about to lose his re-election, then Trump picks him, puts him on the ticket, and gets him out of his troubles in Indiana,” Mr. Boehner said. “He’s been a loyal soldier ever since Trump threw him that lifeline.”