Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Trump, allegedly hired an IT firm owned by Liberty University’s Chief Information Officer John Gauger to tip online polls ahead of the 2016 election in President Trump’s favor, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Liberty University is a large Evangelical Christian college whose current president Jerry Falwell, Jr. is an outspoken supporter of President Trump.
In a report released Thursday, the WSJ revealed that Cohen had promised to pay Gauger’s company, RedFintch Solutions, $50,000 and “lucrative work” with Trump on his presidential campaign if they would alter online polls on CNBC and the Drudge Report. Gauger was also asked to create a twitter account called @WomenForCohen with hopes that it would paint the now convicted felon as a “strong, pit bull, sex symbol.”
Gauger revealed to the Wall Street Journal that in 2014, he was asked to write a code that would repeatedly vote for Mr. Trump in a CNBC online poll which sought to rank the top business leaders in America. The WSJ reports that Gauger was unsuccessful in even getting Trump into the top 100 candidates. A year later, Cohen is said to have asked Gauger to do the same thing with a Drudge Report poll on potential Republican candidates heading into the 2016 election. President Trump ranked fifth.
Additionally, the Twitter account that Gauger was tasked with making is still active but has only amassed some 865 followers.
According to the WSJ, Cohen never paid Gauger the full amount he was owed. Gauger told the WSJ that he received a “blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash and, randomly, a boxing glove that Mr. Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter.” While being charged with several felonies including campaign-finance violations and tax evasion, federal prosecutors noted that Cohen still requested a $50,000 reimbursement for “tech services” from Mr. Trump.
A University of California professor and election-law expert, Richard Hasen told the WSJ that if the expenses were campaign related and had not been discussed with Trump’s campaign, then Cohen was obligated to “disclose the payment to RedFinch as an independent expenditure.” He also noted that if Cohen’s actions were coordinated with the Trump campaign then the campaign would have had to report all unpaid work as an “in-kind contribution.”
After the WSJ published their article Thursday morning, Cohen seemingly confirmed the poll rigging accusations Tweeting, “As for the @WSJ article on poll rigging, what I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS. I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.”
While the Trump Organization has yet to respond, President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said of Cohen, “If one thing has been established, it’s that Michael Cohen is completely untrustworthy.”
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