Michael Cohen Reportedly Tried (& Failed) To Rig Polls For Trump

by Hannah Golden
Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A stunning revelation about Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney and right-hand man, swept through news outlets on Thursday, Jan. 17. According to The Wall Street Journal, Michael Cohen reportedly tried to rig polls for Trump ahead of the 2016 election, long before Trump declared he was in the running for the presidency.

In a statement posted on Twitter Thursday, Cohen acknowledged the allegations of paying to rig the polling and said he did so "at the direction of and for the sole benefit of Donald J. Trump." He added, "I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn't deserve it." Elite Daily reached out to the White House and the Trump Organization for comment on the report, but did not receive a response at time of publication. A representative of Cohen declined to comment further to Elite Daily.

According to The Wall Street Journal report, as early as 2014, Cohen had been "trying unsuccessfully to manipulate two online polls in Mr. Trump's favor" ahead of the 2016 presidential election by paying a tech firm to influence the results. The polls in question were a CNBC poll from 2014 and a Drudge Report poll from February 2015 to probe possible Republican presidential candidates during the 2016 election cycle. The tech firm also reportedly did social media work to promote Trump, making a @WomenforCohen Twitter account that praised Trump and his attorney. Despite Cohen's intervention, Trump ended up underperforming in both polls, WSJ adds, taking fifth place in the Drudge Report poll and not even making the top 100 with CNBC. Whoops.

Per WSJ, Cohen reportedly paid John Gauger, the owner of RedFinch Solutions, LLC, to alter the poll's results by creating a bot to upvote Trump. The compensation — which allegedly came in the form of bundles of thousands of dollars of cash in a blue Walmart bag, as well as a prized boxing glove — reportedly took place in Cohen's office, where he worked for the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment.

Gauger tells WSJ he wasn't fully compensated for his work, although Cohen was reportedly reimbursed by Trump for the fully agreed-upon amount of $50,000. That reimbursement apparently took place in 2016, around the same time that Cohen was reimbursed by Trump for making two payments to women who alleged having affairs with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied those affairs but admitted to reimbursing Cohen. Elite Daily previously reached out to the White House for comment on the alleged affairs but did not hear back by the time of publication.

Tweets by Trump at the time of the 2014 CNBC poll, as Politico reporter Kyle Cheney pointed out on Twitter, shed some light on the then-candidate's reaction. "The #CNBC 25 poll is a joke. I was in 9th place and taken off. (Politics?) No wonder @CNBC ratings are going down the tubes," Trump tweeted in March 2014.

It doesn't appear that Trump tweeted about the February 2015 Drudge Report poll, according to the Trump Twitter Archive. However, he did promote a subsequently positive poll from Drudge later that year, showing Trump leading the Republican candidate field with 38 percent, though the link in his 2015 tweet is no longer active.

The story was quickly met with a spate of reactions on Twitter.

The WSJ story was the latest update on Cohen as he prepares to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 7, accepting the invitation of committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings earlier this month to tell lawmakers about his time working for Trump as the chamber takes up inquiries into the president and his campaign.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to making campaign finance violations in regards to those payments to the two women, and pleaded guilty a second time in November to lying to Congress about the timeline of a deal to construct a Trump Tower Moscow. In a sentencing memo released in December, Cohen also said that it was at Trump's direction that he made the hush money payments. The White House did not respond to Elite Daily's request for comment at the time, although the president said in an interview that he only knew about the payments after they were made. The president's former attorney has been cooperating with federal prosecutors in various investigations for some time.

As for what this latest revelation about the polling payment might mean for Cohen's legal troubles, as it comes weeks after his sentencing, it's unclear. But for the moment, CNN reports Cohen is still on track to testify next month to Congress.