She offered a blessing at his inauguration, said prayers at the launch of his re-election campaign, and recently claimed while publicising a new book that he once wanted to construct a vast, glass cathedral, telling her “let’s build this before we’re too old”. Others have called her a fraud.
Now Paula White-Cain, better known as Paula White, a 53-year-old televangelist from Florida, has an official White House role. In what appears part of an attempt to lock down support from evangelical Christians as he seeks a second term, Mr Trump has added Ms White to his office of public liaison, the part of the administration concerned with outreach to groups and individuals the president considers important.
“Paula White is the adviser to the faith and opportunity initiative,” the White House told reporters in a statement. “She is heading up that initiative.”
Ms White enters the job with a reputation for shaking things up. This summer she told a congregation in Florida: “When I walk on White House grounds, God walks on White House grounds. Wherever I go, God rules. When I walked in the river, God walked in the river.” She has praised the president’s intellect, calling him “very much a strategic thinker”, and sometimes she speaks in tongues.
Despite claiming the Bible was either his favourite or second-favourite book, telling different interviewers over the years that his own Art of the Deal was his number one read, the president has never made a very convincing man of God.
Attending a church service during the 2016 Iowa caucus, he struggled to differentiate between a sacrament plate and a collection bowl, reaching into his pockets for change. He testily declined to tell journalists his favourite Bible stories, and completely mashed up scriptural references when he spoke to students at the Christian Liberty University.
Yet he has always understood the importance of keeping the support of the religious right, and in particular evangelicals, perhaps as many as 80 per cent of whom voted for him in 2016.
Evangelical leaders rarely defended the thrice-married former casino magnate’s private life, or his paying of hush money to a porn star on the eve of the election. But they approve of his appointment to the supreme court of conservative justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, his defence of “religious freedom” and his willingness to permit “religious exemptions” for laws seeking to provide workplace equality to members of the LGBT+ community.