U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at his hotel in New York City, U.S., June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
BRENDAN MCDERMID

Cohen says he paid to rig online polls at Trump’s direction

Updated

Those who’ve spent a considerable amount of time online have come across websites that invite visitors to vote in unscientific polls. They generally tell us very little about public attitudes, but people often like to register their opinions, and website operators often like to create ways to engage visitors, so they’re fairly common. Those who understand social-science research know to ignore the results.

Donald Trump is not one of those people. In fact, he’s complained more than once about the results of online unscientific polls that failed to make him look good.

With this in mind, the Wall Street Journal published a rather remarkable article this morning on Michael Cohen’s efforts – when he was Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer” – to “rig online polls in his boss’s favor” before the 2016 elections.

To execute the plan, Cohen reportedly hired John Gauger, the chief information officer at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, and the owner of a small tech company called RedFinch Solutions LLC. The goal was simple: deliver online poll results intended to make Trump happy.

In January 2014, Mr. Cohen asked Mr. Gauger to help Mr. Trump score well in a CNBC online poll to identify the country’s top business leaders by writing a computer script to repeatedly vote for him. Mr. Gauger was unable to get Mr. Trump into the top 100 candidates. In February 2015, as Mr. Trump prepared to enter the presidential race, Mr. Cohen asked him to do the same for a Drudge Report poll of potential Republican candidates, Mr. Gauger said. Mr. Trump ranked fifth, with about 24,000 votes, or 5% of the total.

As is often the case with people who do work for Team Trump, Gauger said he never received the $50,000 he was promised, though he claims Cohen did give him a Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash.

Cohen denies that detail – he insists payments were made by check – though he seemed to confirm the gist of the story. In a tweet published this morning, Cohen pointed to the WSJ article and said that when it came to poll rigging, his actions were made “at the direction of and for the sole benefit of” Donald Trump.

The lawyer, who’ll soon be incarcerated for crimes he committed under Trump’s employ, added, “I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.”

Why should we care about details like these now? A few reasons.

First, when Trump lashes out at polls he doesn’t like as “rigged,” perhaps he knows of what he speaks.

Second, we’re occasionally reminded that the president has long overseen an operation that can charitably be described as amateurish and incompetent, which offers insights into why his White House is such a mess.

But a Washington Post  analysis published this morning raised a related point, putting the contract to rig polls in a larger context: “Why should we not assume that other surreptitious investments might have been made?”

Donald Trump and Scandals

Cohen says he paid to rig online polls at Trump's direction

Updated