On Tuesday, CNN published a secretly recorded tape revealing a discussion between then-candidate Donald Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen. The discussion reportedly revolved around silencing former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims to have had an affair with Trump. At the beginning of the tape, Trump and Cohen mention two black pastors on Trump’s campaign, with Trump inquiring about which he could “use.”
One of the pastors, now running for Congress, bragged about being mentioned on the tape, despite its salacious details about Trump’s alleged attempts to silence women who might seek to tell the public about his extramarital affairs.
“I’ve been saying for almost 2 yrs some in the campaign tried to marginalize my role, in the closing days. This tape and the fact that I remained traveling with and speaking for the campaign after this conversation. is even more proof [Donald Trump] remained in my corner,” Mark Burns, the pastor of Harvest Praise & Worship Center in Easley, S.C., who lost the Republican primary to replace retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), tweeted Wednesday.
I've been saying for almost 2 yrs some in the campaign tried to marginalize my role, in the closing days. This tape and the fact that I remained traveling with and speaking for the campaign after this conversation. is even more proof @realDonaldTrump remained in my corner. #maga
— Pastor Mark Burns (@pastormarkburns) July 25, 2018
Burns’ decision to own the tape is extremely brave, although some might call it reckless given the tape’s salacious nature. Burns’ name comes up early in the tape, before the discussions about paying off the former Playboy model, however.
As the tape opens, Michael Cohen mentions a “great poll” for Trump, and the candidate responds, saying, “Your guy is a good guy.”
Cohen asks, “Who, Pastor Scott?” referring to Darrell Scott, pastor of New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Trump responds, “No, Pastor Scott.”
After a little while, Cohen suggests another name. “No, you’re talking about Mark Burns,” pastor of Harvest Praise & Worship Center in Easley, S.C.
Trump confirms Cohen’s suspicion, asking, “Mark Burns, are we using him?” Cohen responds, “No, No.”
While the tape has proven less than remarkable, its circumstances are particularly interesting. Trump has attacked Cohen for recording him. “What kind of lawyer would tape a client? So sad!” he tweeted.
What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before? Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things? I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped – can this be so? Too bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2018
Besides this, the tape seems to confirm reports that Trump tried to bury McDougal’s story before the election for political reasons. It certainly reveals that the candidate knew about a proposal to buy the rights to McDougal’s story. In the tape, Cohen tells Trump about his plans to set up a company and finance the purchase of the rights from American Media, which publishes The National Enquirer.
Democrats have blasted Trump, and another of his lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, over this.
As former prosecutor, 3 things notable about Cohen tape:
1) Clear Giuliani was untruthful when he said Trump didn’t know
2) Goal was to kill story before election, so campaign motivated
3) Regardless of cash or check, whole point of phony corp. was to hide campaign expenditure
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) July 25, 2018
It is no surprise that Trump — who notoriously broke up with his first wife Ivana while he was in a relationship with his second wife, Marla Maples, and who bragged in print about sleeping with women and in a tape about using his celebrity to grope them — would have had an affair with a Playboy model in 2006. The more salacious angle to the tape involves questions of whether and how he paid off and even threatened women to silence them.
Even there, news has already come out that Trump allegedly paid off porn star Stephanie Clifford — better known as Stormy Daniels — to keep her silent about another of his affairs. Daniels has made herself something of an anti-Trump celebrity, launching a “Make America Horny Again” tour.
CNN’s Amanda Carpenter launched into Cohen on the issue of silencing women. “Michael Cohen is not a ‘fixer.’ He was Trump’s go-to ‘silencer’ when a woman needed to be hushed,” Carpenter tweeted. “He killed stories about Ivana’s alleged rape. He wanted the rights to Karen McDougal’s story. He set up a shell company to hide payments to Stormy Daniels before the election.”
McDougal’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has been repeating allegations that his client was physically intimidated by someone connected to Trump. Carpenter suggested that might be Cohen.
In this context, most evangelical Christian pastors would likely rather not be associated with this salacious tape. After all, Jesus uncompromisingly preached against adultery and secrecy. History professor Kevin Kruse mock-congratulated the pastors on Twitter.
“Congrats to evangelical pastors Mark Burns and Darrell Scott for getting name-checked on the Trump-Cohen tape as people the campaign might ‘use’ again in the future, as soon as Cohen paid hush money to Trump’s Playboy model mistress,” Kruse tweeted.
Congrats to evangelical pastors Mark Burns and Darrell Scott for getting name-checked on the Trump-Cohen tape as people the campaign might "use" again in the future, as soon as Cohen paid hush money to Trump's Playboy model mistress.
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) July 25, 2018
Pastor Darrell Scott, CEO of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, did not brag about appearing in the tape, but he did restate his support for the president in a tweet early Wednesday.
“The Trump campaign won the 2016 Presidential election against all odds. What do they want us to do. We ain’t givin it back,” Scott declared.
The Trump campaign won the 2016 Presidential election against all odds. What do they want us to do. We ain’t givin it back. #2020HereWeCome
— Dr.Darrell Scott (@PastorDScott) July 25, 2018
As for Burns, he is also firmly in the president’s corner. On Trump’s birthday, Burns tweeted a happy birthday to the president, adding, “THANK you for MAKING & KEEPING AMERICA GREAT.”
— Pastor Mark Burns (@pastormarkburns) June 14, 2018
To be fair, there are a myriad of very good reasons to support Trump despite his marital infidelities and his various scandals. Furthermore, unlike former president Bill Clinton, Trump has not brought infidelity — especially with a young White House intern! — into the Oval Office. With the leaks coming out of the Trump White House, such a scandal would have come out had it happened.
All the same, this tape and Trump’s history of infidelity should be uncomfortable for his evangelical Christian supporters, and Burns’ decision to brag about begin on the tape — while ballsy – seems ill-advised.