CNN political commentator and Donald Trump Hispanic Advisory Council member Steve Cortes on Tuesday insisted he doesn’t believe the president knew about a payout made by his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to adult film star Stormy Daniels—prompting laughter from his fellow panelists.
Discussing the ongoing Stormy Daniels saga (which, by Tuesday, had advanced to include photo of Daniels in 2011 taking a lie detector test about her alleged affair with Trump), Cortes relied on a familiar talking point that voters knew Trump had a sordid history when they elected him president of the United States.
“What [voters] knew was the Access Hollywood tape,” Cortes said. “That was about as damning as you could produce. If I were to try to to concoct something to destroy a presidential campaign it would be that Access Hollywood tape. The fact is that people consumed that tape, they considered it, and decided it wasn't relevant to the job he would do as president. And, by the way, he is doing a magnificent job.”
“Come on,” political commentator Joan Walsh replied.
Civil rights attorney Areva Martin pushed back on Cortes’ point that the American people knew the extent of Trump’s past before they elected him.
“We did not know about this the hush agreement, this NDA,” Martin said. “And in this ‘Me Too’ movement, in this time of ‘Time’s Up,’ I think women—the 54 percent of white women that voted for Donald Trump—perhaps would have had a different analysis of him as the president, had they known in this moment that not only did he have the affairs, which apparently he is going to great lengths to deny, but that he went to such great lengths to keep the women quiet.”
Cortes protested, asking if any of the women who voted for Trump thought he was a saint.
“It isn't about those women thinking he is a saint,” Martin explained. “It is, though, about empowered women recognizing something is really wrong with a man that has an affair with two different women after his wife has a child and then he uses the legal process to prevent the women from talking about the affairs, then he calls the women liars, denies knowing them, denies having any relationship with them. I think that's substantial and I think women would have made a different choice had the information got out.”
“And apparently, [Trump’s lawyer] Michael Cohen and Trump team thought that or else there wouldn't be $130,000 settlement, and there wouldn't be all of the legal cases to prevent this woman from saying what Donald Trump says it didn't happen in the first place,” Martin added.
“I agree Michael Cohen thought that,” Cortes said. “That doesn’t mean that the president thought that.”
“Oh, c’mon,” former federal prosecutor John Flannery interjected.
“And there is still not a shred of evidence that the president himself knew about any of this,” Cortes claimed.
“Steve, do you really think—be honest—do you really think Donald Trump didn't know that Michael Cohen was paying this money to him?” CNN host Don Lemon asked.
“I do not,” Cortes replied as his fellow panelists burst into laughter. “You can laugh at me.”
“Sell that man a bridge!” Flannery suggested.
Watch the segment below: