Opinion

Michael Cohen’s Fake Polls and False Twitter Accounts May Be Worse Than Pathetic — They May Be Illegal

Just when you thought we were done with weird Michael Cohen stories, a new one emerges – and this one includes a boxing glove, Jerry Falwell, and a plastic Walmart bag. What does it all mean? So far, looks like we’ve got one bruised ego, a few hundred Twitter followers, and some potential campaign finance violations.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that John Gauger said in 2015, Cohen offered him $50,000 to rig online polls in favor of Donald Trump. Gauger is the owner of Red Finch Solutions, an IT firm, and was the CIO at Liberty University – Falwell’s “central training ground for the next generation of Champions for Christ.”

According to the report, Gauger said that he and Cohen met at Cohen’s Trump Organization office where the two hatched their plan. During the meeting, Cohen reportedly handed Gauger a plastic Walmart bag containing $12,000 in cash and a boxing glove that Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial-arts fighter. Apparently Gauger was cool with the cash and glove as a deposit, and went on his way to work some tech magic.

Oh, and one more thing. Cohen didn’t just ask Gauger to make Trump look good. Apparently, Cohen also put in an order for a fake Twitter account using the handle @WomenForCohen. The plan was for a female friend of Gauger’s to turn Cohen into some kind of sex symbol.

That account? It was created in May 2016 and it’s still active.

The bio reads, “Women who love and support Michael Cohen. Strong, pit bull, sex symbol, no nonsense, business oriented, and ready to make a difference!” It includes a headshot of Cohen wearing his signature expression – befuddled with a twist of sleep apnea. It’s unclear why Cohen would have needed to hire an IT expert to do something any fifteen year-old with an iPhone could have accomplished, but hey, technology can be tough.

Now that the story has broken, here’s where we are: Gauger is annoyed as Cohen never made good on the rest of the promised $50K. Cohen appears to to be confirming the story’s details—all but the Walmart bag, telling the WSJ, “All monies paid to Mr. Gauger were by check.” Lastly, Cohen has disclaimed all responsibility for this IT debacle to his former client, Donald Trump, tweeting Thursday:

The legal import of Cohen’s payment to Gauger isn’t immediately certain. Campaign finance laws do include any monies spent “for the purpose of influencing any election” as “expenditures” for purposes of legal compliance.  But, as election law expert Rick Hasen pointed out Thursday, timing can cloud things a bit.

Certainly, though, the payments have some potential to open Trump up to liability:

Cohen has already begun to pay a harsh price for other campaign finance violations committed at the behest of his powerful client. Whether authorities will seek to lengthen Cohen’s impending sentence based on this new information remains uncertain.

Cohen’s March 6 report-date for prison is looming, the start of three years without any newCohen tweets.  On the other, though, it’ll be entertaining to imagine Cohen’s budding friendship with Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino.  Maybe Cohen’s fan account will pick up some followers while he’s away.

[Image via Yana Paskova/Getty Images]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. She is a frequent media contributor, and is Of Counsel to Smedley & Lis, in Woodbury, New Jersey. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos

  1. Mediaite
  2. The Mary Sue
  3. RunwayRiot
  4. Law & Crime
  5. AmboTV