Liberty University responded to news that one of its administrators was paid by Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen to rig online polls during the 2016 election by saying he is an "outstanding" employee who has "made great contributions."
John Gauger, Liberty University’s chief information officer and vice president of analytics, said he was paid thousands of dollars ahead of the 2016 general election to try rigging online polls in favor of President Donald Trump at the request of the president’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Liberty University responded to the news by praising Gauger as an "outstanding" employee.
The revelation was first made Thursday in a report by the Wall Street Journal.
In a statement to The Christian Post Thursday, Liberty University praised Gauger as one of the popular evangelical university’s “outstanding” employees enjoying success as independent entrepreneurs.
“Liberty University, like many other educational institutions, has permitted its employees for many years to engage in business, consulting and other side work that does not interfere with their employment obligations to the University. Also, like other organizations, Liberty recognizes the strong demand for highly skilled IT professionals creates special challenges in recruiting and retaining talented employees with those skills and experience,” the statement began.
“The opportunity for Liberty’s IT employees to develop businesses and products is particularly important to attracting and maintaining Liberty’s IT talent. John Gauger is one example among many outstanding LU employees who have made great contributions in their official roles and also enjoyed success as independent entrepreneurs, allowing them to enhance their capabilities and generate more revenue for their families while allowing the University to retain them on our team,” the university added.
Gauger, who also owns RedFinch Solutions LLC, told the WSJ that he agreed to Cohen’s request to do the job for $50,000. When he went to collect payment at Trump Tower in New York City in early 2015 however, Cohen gave him a blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash. He was also randomly given a boxing glove Cohen claimed had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter. Gauger said he was never paid the remainder of the $50,000 agreement.
Gauger’s lawyer, Charles E. James Jr. of the firm Williams Mullen, told the WSJ that federal investigators interviewed his client about his interactions with Cohen, lasting over six years, that began from their first meeting at Liberty in 2012 until last April, when the FBI raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room.
Gauger, told the publication that Cohen had promised him lucrative work for the presidential campaign which included trying unsuccessfully to rig two online polls in Trump’s favor.
Gauger said Cohen asked him to create a Twitter account called @WomenForCohen. It was created in May 2016 and managed by a female friend of Gauger. It described Cohen as a “sex symbol,” and generally praised him in a manner to boost his profile.
Gauger’s lawyer also explained that Gauger’s relationship with Cohen was expected to lead to more lucrative work but it didn’t materialize in the way his client had hoped.
“Mr. Cohen promised but never was able to develop the business he predicted,” said James.
The report did note that early in 2016, Cohen paid RedFinch $50,000 to help create positive web content about the chief executive of CareOne Management LLC, a New Jersey assisted-living company that had given Mr. Cohen a consulting contract.
Gauger said he last spoke with Cohen in April 2018, shortly after the FBI raid on Cohen. Gauger said Cohen told him the investigation was about taxes and how he had accessed money from some of his accounts.
Responding to the WSJ report on Thursday, Cohen insisted he was only acting on Trump’s behalf when he hired Gauger to try rigging the online polls.
“As for the @WSJ article on poll rigging, 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 in a statement on Twitter.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. was one of Trump's earliest evangelical supporters during the 2016 and has continued to be one of Trump's most vocal supporters.