Tonight CNN released an audio file of the 2016 Donald Trump-Michael Cohen conversation (recorded by Cohen) in which the candidate and his lawyer discuss making a payment to cover-up an alleged Trump affair with Playboy playmate Karen McDougal.
In addition to the discussion of the McDougal payment, Trump and Cohen talk about two evangelical supporters of the presidential candidate: South Carolina pastor Mark Burns and Ohio pastor Darrell Scott.
Here is what I heard on the recording:
Trump: Pastor Scott, what’s happening? Can we use him any more?
Cohen: “Oh yeah…100 [percent?]. No, your friend Mark Burns. We told him to stop.
Trump: I don’t mean [him]. Mark Burns, can we use him any more?
First, it seems that Trump confuses Scott and Burns, the two most prominent African-American pro-Trump pastors.
Second, Cohen says that they can still “use” Scott, but not Burns. This is quite telling. In fact, clergy allowing themselves to be used for political gain is exactly what I had in mind when I coined the term “court evangelical.” There is a long history of evangelicals getting “used” by presidents and presidential candidates. I write about them in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.
Third, we now know Michael Cohen was involved in managing Trump’s relationship with these evangelical advisers.
Fourth, Burns, a Trump surrogate who prayed at the Republican National Convention, was probably deemed no longer “useful” because he created a minor scandal by posting a picture of Hillary Clinton in blackface. Then CNN learned that he lied about his resume. Both of these stories broke in September 2016, the same month that Cohen recorded his conversation with Trump.
Fifth, as these posts indicate, Burns continued to be an informal Trump surrogate well after the election. I guess the ban on Burns only lasted for a short time. At some point Trump must have thought he could start “using” him again.