Here's that portion of the conversation:
TRUMP: And, your guy is a good guy. He’s a good —COHEN: Who, Pastor Scott?TRUMP: Can’t believe this. No, Pastor Scott. What’s, what’s happening —COHEN: No —TRUMP: Can we use him anymore?COHEN: Oh, yeah, a hundred — no, you’re talking about Mark Burns. He’s, we’ve told him to [UNINTELLIGIBLE].TRUMP: I don’t need that — Mark Burns, are we using him?COHEN: No, no.
As Trump headed into the final days of his campaign, he was regularly battling accusations of supporting white supremacy and relied heavily on his black surrogates to vouch for him as a person who truly valued diversity. Doubts about the depth of Trump's religious convictions were prevalent as well. Evangelical pastors often took the stage at events in conservative communities to convince attendees that the president was a man of deep faith.
At the time, Trump was accused of using the men to pander to black and Christian voters, an idea that resurfaced on social media after the tape was released. Throughout the campaign, Trump struggled to win large numbers of black voters and still polls poorly with the community.
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
Also in the Trump-Cohen tape: Cohen tells Trump the campaign can no longer use Pastor Mark Burns (@pastormarkburns), the toady black "pastor" who was busted for lying that he had a college degree and had served in the Army Reserve. pic.twitter.com/Cunq9ogLfZ— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) July 25, 2018
Trotting out surrogates to vouch for a candidate is standard practice among politicians. Hillary Clinton had a cadre of well-known black surrogates and ministers in her corner. And other Republicans attempted to make inroads in the black community by touting the support of various community leaders of color.
But Trump’s sincerity was often questioned because his surrogates were usually newcomers to the political world who did not have long-standing relationships with black voters. And often, they did not have long-standing relationships with the candidate himself, which the conversation with Cohen revealed.
In short, Trump wanted black voters to take the words of people who did not know him well and who he appeared to have just met himself. In the end, it did not work.
In addition to Trump appearing not to be able to distinguish between Burns and Scott, it is not clear how he wanted to "use" either man. He alluded to an upcoming fundraiser in Charleston, which is in South Carolina, the state where Burns pastors a church. And on multiple occasions — including at the Republican National Convention that summer — Burns publicly vouched for Trump's character amid questions about alleged sexual misconduct with women, doubts about the sincerity of Trump's Christian faith and concerns about Trump's history of racism.
Cohen said they couldn't use Burns, who was sidelined after reports surfaced around the same time that he had significantly embellished his résumé. Burns falsely claimed to have earned a graduate degree, to belong to a fraternal organization and to be in the Army Reserve.
After the release of the tapes, Burns seemed to interpret Trump's question to mean that the then-candidate wanted Burns featured prominently during the campaign's final days.
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
But considering that Trump seemed not to know the difference between Scott and Burns, it's not clear. Another test of Trump's support for Burns will be in the upcoming congressional race to replace Rep. Trey Gowdy (R.-S.C.). Burns, whose political experience is limited to campaigning for Trump, ran for his seat.
Scott, who was also discussed on the tape, has yet to respond to a request for comment. But after the tape was released, he sent a tweet reinforcing his support for Trump.