Michael Cohen says he paid IT company to manipulate polls ‘at direction of Donald Trump’

'I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn't deserve it,' says president's former lawyer

Clark Mindock
New York
Thursday 17 January 2019 18:37 GMT
Michael Cohen has repeatedly hit out at Donald Trump
Michael Cohen has repeatedly hit out at Donald Trump (EPA)

Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” has said he paid a small technology firm thousands of dollars in 2015 to rig online polls “at the direction and of the sole benefit” of the president.

Michael Cohen, who last year pleaded guilty to federal crimes while implicating Mr Trump, admitted to paying between $12,000 and $13,000 to the owner of RedFinch Solutions LLC.

The owner, John Gauger, was paid for “trying unsuccessfully to manipulate two online polls in Mr Trump’s favour”, and creating a Twitter account aimed at making it seem as though women think Cohen is attractive, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

"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”, Cohen tweeted.

Mr Gauger told the Journal that he was not fully paid for the work he agreed to. However, Cohen billed the Trump Organisation $50,000 for technology services, according to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who referenced the amount in a charging document. That figure was the amount agreed to with Cohen for his services, according to Mr Gauger.

Cohen was also reportedly gifted a boxing glove “worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter”, and at least one cash payment. In a statement to the Journal, Cohen said he did not pay Gauger in cash, but by cheque

Cohen is said to have ento write a computer script to repeatedly vote for Mr Trump in a February 2015 Drudge Report poll on potential Republican candidates. The move came as Mr Trump was preparing to enter the 2016 presidential election race.

Mr Trump ranked fifth in the Drudge Report poll, with about 24,000 votes, or 5 per cent of the total, according to the Journal.

Cohen also commissioned Mr Gauger to do the same for a 2014 CNBC online poll identifying the country's top business leaders, although Mr Trump did not appear in the top 100 candidates, the Journal reported.

Trump tweeted about a CNBC poll on business leaders in 2014, calling it "a joke" and suggested he was removed from the list because of "politics."

The Trump Organisation has not responded to the article. One of Mr Trump’s current personal lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, told Journal that allegations that Cohen received more money than he ultimately paid to Mr Gauger — $50,000 vs $12,000 to $13,000 — made him a “thief”.

“The president has no knowledge of the polls being rigged,” Mr Giuliani told Reuters.

The payment from the Trump Organisation appears to have been made at around the same time during the 2016 presidential campaign that Cohen received a $130,000 reimbursement from the organisation for hush money paid by the lawyer to adult actress Stormy Daniels, who has alleged she had an affair with Mr Trump. Cohen also assisted with another payment made to Playboy model Karen McDougal who also alleged an affair with Mr Trump.

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Mr Trump has denied the allegations of aff affairs.

Cohen will start serving a three-year prison term in March having pleaded guilty to federal financial crimes and campaign finance violations and to lying to Congress over a Trump project in Moscow.

Cohen, apparently cooperating with the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, has broken very publicly from Mr Trump. He is expected to testify next month in Congress about the hush payments he alleges he paid out for the president.

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