In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former personal attorney, paid a small technology company thousands of dollars to raise his profile and attempt to rig online polls in Trump's favor, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
In a meeting in early 2015 at Trump Tower, Cohen handed John Gauger, owner of RedFinch Solutions LLC, a Walmart bag filled with between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash and a boxing glove that Cohen claimed had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter, the Journal reported. Gauger told the newspaper he had agreed to try to rig online polls to benefit Trump in exchange for $50,000, though he said he never received the rest of the expected payment from Cohen.
Gauger told the Journal that Cohen twice asked him to attempt to manipulate online polls in Trump's favor. In January 2014, Cohen asked him to boost Trump's ranking in an online CNBC poll of the nation's top business leaders, a goal he attempted to accomplish by writing a computer script that repeatedly voted for Trump, the Journal reported. Gauger's efforts failed to get Trump into the top 100 candidates for the poll, the newspaper reported.
In February 2015, three months before Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, Cohen asked Gauger to lift Trump's ranking on a Drudge Report poll of possible GOP presidential candidates, according to the Journal. The poll ended with Trump in fifth place.
Gauger told the Journal that Cohen also had him create a Twitter account, @WomenForCohen, that was managed by a friend of Gauger's. On the account, which remains live Thursday, Cohen was described as "strong, pit bull, sex symbol, no nonsense, business oriented, and ready to make a difference!"
In a statement to the Journal, Cohen denied having paid Gauger in cash, telling the newspaper, "All monies paid to Mr. Gauger were by check."
In a statement released on Twitter, he added, “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,” he wrote.
Cohen asked in early 2017 for the Trump Organization to reimburse him $50,000 for payments made to RedFinch, despite not fully paying Gauger, according to the Journal. Cohen said the expenditure was for "technology services," but he never detailed the charges for Trump Organization executives and they did not ask, the Journal reported.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told the newspaper that Cohen’s decision to ask for full reimbursement, despite his failure to fully pay Gauger, showed Cohen was a thief.
“If one thing has been established, it’s that Michael Cohen is completely untrustworthy,” Giuliani said.
Cohen, who once famously claimed he’d take a bullet for Trump, broke with the president last year after agreeing to cooperate with federal investigators probing allegations of Russian election meddling and its possible ties to Trump and his campaign officials. Prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office said last month that Cohen has provided “credible information” related to the probe.
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A judge in December sentenced Cohen to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges including multiple counts of tax evasion, lying to Congress and arranging illicit payments to silence a pair of women who posed a risk to Trump’s presidential campaign. Federal law requires that any payments made “for the purposes of influencing” an election must be reported in campaign finance disclosures.
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Cohen is set to publicly appear next month for testimony before the House Oversight Committee.