Trump: Americans are saying 'merry Christmas' thanks to me

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE on Thursday claimed Americans are saying religious phrases like “merry Christmas” more often than under his predecessor, former President Obama, reviving a central theme of his 2016 campaign.

The president’s comments came during a National Day of Prayer event, staged hours after he admitted to reimbursing his personal lawyer for a hush money payment to a porn actress who said she had sex with Trump while he was married to his wife, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpFirst lady listens to students discuss online civility Trump to visit Andrews to receive body of fallen secret service member The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, who was absent from Thursday's event.

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“One nation under God. So important. And we say it. A lot of people, you know, they don't say it. But you know what? They're starting to say it more, just like we’re starting to say 'merry Christmas' when that day comes around,” he said in the White House Rose Garden.

“You notice a big difference between now and two or three years ago?” Trump added. “It was going in the other direction rapidly. Now it’s straight up.”

The president announced at the event that he was singing an executive order creating a new faith-based initiative at the White House, which was attended by leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu faiths. 

Afterward the president's speech, reporters shouted questions about the $130,000 payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, but Trump did not answer. 

Trump took to Twitter on Thursday morning to acknowledge he paid back personal attorney Michael Cohen through a monthly retainer, contradicting his earlier claims that he knew nothing about the payment. 

The president said such arrangements “are very common among celebrities and people of wealth” and “was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair."

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), a new member of the White House legal team, revealed that Trump did reimburse Cohen for the payment during an interview Wednesday night on Fox News.