What to Know
President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen on Thursday said he tried to “rig” online polls
“I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it,” Cohen said in a tweet
Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison term for a slew of crimes in March
President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen on Thursday said he tried to rig online polls — including one conducted by CNBC — “at the direction and for the sole benefit of” Trump when he was thinking about making a run for the White House.
“I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it,” Cohen said in a tweet copping to the electronic chicanery to have Trump’s name rank higher in online polls than it otherwise would have.
Cohen’s admission came shortly after the Wall Street Journal published a story detailing his hiring an IT company to manipulate a 2014 CNBC online poll identifying the nation’s top 100 business leaders to bolster Trump’s chances of making that list — an effort that failed.
Trump himself fumed in 2014 on Twitter about his absence from CNBC’s poll results.
A second effort related to a Drudge Report poll of potential Republican candidates worked, according to the Journal.
The Journal reported that a man named John Gauger, the owner of a RedFinch Solutions LLC and the chief information officer of Liberty University in Virginia, was given more than $12,000 by Cohen in 2015 for having helped rig online polls to boost Trump’s ranking in them.
The White House and a lawyer for the Trump Organization had no immediate comment when contacted by CNBC asked about Cohen’s tweet and the Journal story.
Trump’s current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told NBC News that any poll rigging as alleged would have been done by Cohen on his own, and that Trump would have not known about it.
Cohen, 52, last year pleaded guilty to federal financial crimes, campaign finance violations and to lying to Congress. He was sentenced to three years in prison and is set to begin serving that term in March.
Long a Trump loyalist who once said he would take a “bullet” for the president, Cohen turned on Trump even before pleading guilty. He began cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller and other authorities in their probes of the president, his real-estate company and other issues.
Cohen admitted as part of his criminal case to arranging for the payment of a total of $280,000 to two women — porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal — in 2016 to keep them quiet about their claims of having had affairs with Trump dating back a decade.
Cohen said he did so to bolster Trump’s chances of winning the presidential election that year, and that the payments were made at Trump’s “direction.”
That goal is the reason prosecutors said that payments violated campaign finance laws, which require truthful disclosure of donations or expenditures for the purpose of an election.
The White House has denied Trump had sex with either woman. The president has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the payments.
Cohen also admitted lying to Congress about the extent of Trump’s involvement in an ultimately aborted effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and to falsely claiming that the project was abandoned in early 2016, when it actually was dropped in mid-2016 — at the same time that Trump was on the verge of locking up the GOP presidential nomination.
The financial crimes related to income that Cohen did not declare to the IRS and to misleading banks about his financial situation when he applied for loans.
Additional reporting by CNBC’s Brian Schwartz and Kevin Breuninger.
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