President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen hired a private consultant to write computer code that would artificially elevate Trump’s ranking in a number of online polls ahead of his presidential campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
After meeting Liberty University chief information officer John Gauger during a speaking appearance at the university, Cohen hired him in January 2014 to inflate Trump’s standing in an online CNBC poll of America’s best business leaders. Cohen hired Gauger again in February 2015, just before Trump entered the presidential race, to elevate the soon-to-be candidate’s ranking in a Drudge Report poll of potential Republican candidates.
Gauger, who owns the I.T. consulting firm RedFinch Solutions LLC, claims he was promised $50,000 for his work, but was instead given just $12,000 to $13,000 in cash in a plastic bag during a meeting at Trump Tower, as well as a boxing glove Cohen said had been worn by a professional fighter. Cohen, however, denies he paid cash.
“All monies paid to Mr. Gauger were by check,” Cohen said of the transaction.
Trump reimbursed Cohen $50,000, largely from his personal account, following the partial payment to Gauger. Prosecutors noted the payment, described as “tech services” on a memo that also included the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, when charging Cohen with eight felonies in August.
Cohen did not inform Trump that the “tech services” expenditure entailed artificially rigging online polls, people familiar with the matter told the Journal.
During the campaign, at Cohen’s request, Gauger also had a female friend of his set up the Twitter account @WomenForCohen to create the impression that the attorney enjoyed popular female support.
“Women who love and support Michael Cohen. Strong, pit bull, sex symbol, no nonsense, business oriented and ready to make a difference!” the account’s bio reads.
Cohen was sentenced to serve three years in prison last month after pleading guilty to campaign-finance violations, tax fraud, lying to Congress and other charges.