President Donald Trump’s estranged former lawyer acknowledged Thursday that he paid a technology company to rig Trump’s standing in two online polls before the presidential campaign. Michael Cohen tweeted that “what I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of” Trump.
“I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it,” he added. Cohen was responding to an article in The Wall Street Journal that said Cohen stiffed the owner of the technology company out of tens of thousands of dollars he promised for work that included using a computer script to enter fake votes for Trump in a 2014 CNBC poll asking people to identify top business leaders and a 2015 poll of potential presidential candidates.
The company owner, John Gauger, told the newspaper that Cohen promised him $50,000 for the work but instead gave him a blue Walmart bag stuffed with between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash, plus a boxing glove Cohen claimed had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter. Cohen disputed he paid cash, telling the Journal that “all monies paid to Mr. Gauger were by check.” He offered no further comment. Federal prosecutors referred to a payment to Gauger’s company— though not by name— when Cohen was charged last summer with violating campaign-finance laws by arranging hush-money payments to two women who claim they had extramarital affairs with Trump.
They said in a charging document that Cohen had been reimbursed by the Trump Organization for payments to the women, plus $50,000 for “tech services” that he requested in a handwritten note.
Messages seeking comment were sent to the Trump Organization Thursday. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told The Associated Press that the president “had no knowledge” of any effort to manipulate polling data on his behalf. He called Cohen a “liar” and a “thief” for seeking reimbursement for more money than he’d paid Gauger’s company, RedFinch Solutions LLC.
Gauger is also the chief information officer at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. His attorney declined to comment. Cohen was recently sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to tax crimes, bank fraud and campaign violations that were not related to his dealings with Gauger and the technology company. He’s scheduled to report to prison in March.q