Ex-Trump lawyer: Rigging polls 'was at the direction of' Trump

Michael Cohen paid a firm to manipulate online polling data, the Wall Street Journal reported.

    Cohen arrives for sentencing at United States Court house in the Manhattan borough of New York City in December [Jeenah Moon/Reuters]
    Cohen arrives for sentencing at United States Court house in the Manhattan borough of New York City in December [Jeenah Moon/Reuters]

    Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for US President Donald Trump, said on Thursday he paid a firm to manipulate online polling data "at the direction of and for the sole benefit of" Trump.

    The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen had paid the data firm RedFinch Solutions to manipulate two public opinion polls in favour of Trump before the 2016 presidential campaign.

    "As for the @WSJ article on poll rigging," Cohen said on Twitter on Thursday, "what I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS. I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn't deserve it."

    The attempts to influence the polls ultimately proved largely unsuccessful but do shed light on the tactics of the Trump campaign and Cohen's role within it. On the campaign trail, Trump frequently referred to his polling numbers to help fuel his candidacy.

    Last month, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in making illegal hush-money payments to women to help Trump's 2016 campaign and lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia. 

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    The Wall Street Journal said Cohen commissioned John Gauger, who runs RedFinch Solutions, to write a computer script that would cast numerous vote for Trump in a February 2015 Drudge Report poll on potential Republican candidates. The move came as Trump was preparing to enter the 2016 presidential election race, the newspaper reported.

    Trump ranked fifth in the Drudge Report poll, with about 24,000 votes or five percent of the total, according to the newspaper.

    Cohen also commissioned Gauger to do the same for a 2014 CNBC online poll identifying the country's top business leaders, although Trump was unable to break the top 100 candidates, the Journal reported.

    "The president has no knowledge of the polls being rigged," Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in an interview with Reuters news agency. RedFinch Solutions did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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    According to the Wall Street Journal, Cohen also asked Gauger to create a Twitter account, named @WomenForCohen, which promoted Cohen as a "sex symbol" and shared statements in favour of Trump's candidacy.

    In 2017, Cohen received a $50,000 reimbursement from Trump and his company for the work done by RedFinch, the newspaper reported, citing court documents and individuals familiar with the matter. The Journal added that Cohen requested the reimbursement for technology services, but did not tell Trump executives what services were performed.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies