Cohen tried to rig online polls “at the direction and for the sole benefit of” Trump when he was thinking about making a run for the White House.
The aim of the electronic chicanery was to put 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 how he retained an information technology 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.
In that case it did not work, and Trump fumed on Twitter about his absence from CNBC’s poll results.
However a second similar effort related to rig a Drudge Report poll of potential Republican candidates worked. Trump placed fifth in that poll, conducted in February 2015, before he announced his candidacy for the White House.
John Gauger, owner of RedFinch Solutions and 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. Gauger himself spilt the beans on that one to the Wall Street Journal.
Last August CNN said Cohen in January 2017 reported a $50,000 expense to the Trump Organisation for a payment Cohen made in 2016 to help Trump. The payment was for work that prosecutors said Cohen “solicited from a technology company during and in connection with the campaign”.
Gauger insists he was never paid more than $13,000 by Cohen despite being owed more for his work. But Cohen still asked for and received “a $50,000 reimbursement from Mr Trump and his company for the work by RedFinch,” the Journal reported.
“The reimbursement — made on the sole basis of a handwritten note from Cohen was paid from Trump’s personal account.
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.