Michael Cohen hired an IT firm to rig online polls in favor of Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 election and instructed the company to create the @WomenForCohen Twitter account to laud how sexually attractive he is, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Trump’s then-attorney—who has since spectacularly fallen out with the president—promised to pay $50,000 to the small tech firm run by a Liberty University staffer to help distort online polls on CNBC and the Drudge Report.
Cohen has confirmed the bombshell report to CNN, and claimed it was carried out “at the direction and for the sole benefit of Donald J. Trump.”
The IT firm doesn’t appear to have been particularly good at the task. Cohen reportedly asked for its help in a January 2014’s CNBC poll to name the country’s top business leaders. RedFinch Solutions founder John Gauger reportedly wrote a computer script to repeatedly vote for Trump—but was still unable to get him into the top 100 candidates.
Gauger is chief information officer at Virginia’s Liberty University, the evangelical Christian college run by Jerry Fallwell Jr., a close Trump supporter. Cohen reportedly helped arrange Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Trump in January 2016.
Cohen, who has been sentenced to three years in prison for lying to Congress and campaign-finance violations, returned to Gauger a year later, in February 2015, according to the Journal report. Cohen asked for help in a Drudge Report poll of potential Republican candidates—he only managed fifth place, with about 24,000 votes.
Some of the work appeared to be more for Cohen’s benefit than Trump’s. It’s claimed that Cohen tasked Gauger with creating the @WomenForCohen Twitter account in May 2016, which heralded Cohen as a “sex symbol” and promoted his media appearances during the campaign.
Gauger disclosed the work to the Journal after he received much less money for his efforts than he expected. Gauger said he believed he was due $50,000 for it—alongside a promise of lucrative work with the president-elect—but Cohen reportedly handed him “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.”
Cohen denied that claim to the Journal—his only comment on the allegations was to say that all payments given to Gauger “were by check.” But he later confirmed the other allegations to CNN, saying: “What I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of Donald J. Trump. I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.”
Gauger’s disclosure casts a great deal of suspicion on a $50,000 reimbursement Cohen received from Trump and his company for the work by RedFinch, which is detailed in a government document. Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump, said Cohen being reimbursed more money than he paid RedFinch would prove he was a thief. “If one thing has been established, it’s that Michael Cohen is completely untrustworthy,” Giuliani told the Journal.
The $50,000 payment was mentioned by federal prosecutors when they charged Cohen in August with eight felonies, including campaign-finance violations. Cohen said the payment was a reimbursement for “tech services” aimed to help the campaign.
According to the Journal, Gauger last spoke with Cohen in April 2018, shortly after the lawyer was raided by federal agents. Cohen reportedly told him the investigation was about taxes. “It’s not a big deal,” Cohen said, according to Gauger.