Cohen's Poll-Rigging Claim Among Many That Could Embarrass Trump

(Bloomberg) -- Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for Donald Trump, said Trump directed him to rig online polls before the 2016 election in the future president’s favor, a preview of the kind of testimony he could give Congress next month.

The ex-fixer is scheduled to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7, when Democrats hope he will spill embarrassing details from his time working for Trump.

Cohen, who recently pleaded guilty to nine felonies and is due to serve a three-year prison sentence, was responding to a story in the Wall Street Journal, which said that Cohen paid thousands of dollars to a small technology company to fix polls that ran on CNBC’s website and the influential Drudge Report.

“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,” Cohen wrote Thursday on Twitter, referring to Trump’s personal and government Twitter accounts.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump has cast Cohen as an opportunistic liar. Federal prosecutors mentioned Cohen’s tech spending when they charged him with campaign-finance violations, among other crimes, but the Journal revealed more details about the scheme.

When he appears next month before Congress, Cohen is likely to be restrained in discussing ongoing federal investigations, particularly those run by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in Manhattan. But he would be free to discuss other issues that could prove embarrassing to his former boss and legal client.

Democrats have been eager to publicly question Trump’s current and former associates in a bid to shed light on the president and the organizations he’s run, part of a concerted campaign to exercise the kind of vigorous oversight they say was lacking during the Republican-controlled first two years of Trump’s presidency.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, said Wednesday that he’s considering a subpoena for Cohen to testify before his panel.

Burr said Cohen has had a letter for over six months requesting that he come in voluntarily.

"With every day we get closer to him going to jail it becomes probably of a little greater consideration," he said of a subpoena. "I prefer people to have people come in voluntarily. I’ve also determined it’s very difficult to interview people in jail."

Cohen has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for making hush-money payments to two women who claimed past affairs with Trump. Cohen has said Trump directed him to do so to avoid any negative fallout for his presidential campaign.

In a separate guilty plea tied to Mueller’s investigation, Cohen has admitted to lying to Congress about Trump’s efforts to build a tower in Moscow. The lawyer told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump had scrapped the project in January 2016 while negotiations actually continued through June of that year, well into Trump’s presidential campaign.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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