Posted by on January 17, 2019 10:38 am
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Categories: A-Bump Elections and voter rights Polls Russiagate

Remember game show host Donald Trump’s second most famous mantra of his 2016 presidential campaign, ranking just below “Lock her up?”

Well, it turns out the failed vodka and steak mogul was correct — but not in the way he wanted his credulous “deplorables” to believe.

In early 2015, a man who runs a small technology company showed up at Trump Tower to collect $50,000 for having helped Michael Cohen, then Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, try to rig online polls in his boss’s favor before the presidential campaign. …

Mr. Gauger owns RedFinch Solutions LLC and is chief information officer at Liberty University in Virginia, where Jerry Falwell Jr., an evangelical leader and fervent Trump supporter, is president. …

After this story published Thursday morning, Mr. Cohen said in a tweet that he attempted to have the polls rigged with Mr. Trump’s knowledge.

“What I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of [Mr. Trump],” Mr. Cohen wrote. “I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it. …

Richard Hasen, an election-law expert and law professor at University of California, Irvine, said Mr. Cohen had an obligation to disclose the payment to RedFinch as an independent expenditure if it was for campaign-related work he didn’t discuss with the Trump campaign. Had he coordinated with the Trump camp, the campaign would have been required to report any unpaid-for work as an in-kind contribution.”

Ouch. WaPo’s Philip Bump drills down into the story’s details.

First of all, that Trump’s team was *cheating* and still only garnered 24,000 votes is somewhat remarkable. Computer scripts can vote a lot more frequently than once every four seconds — if done right. The Journal says Cohen had hired Gauger the year prior to try to rig another poll at CNBC in which Trump also fared particularly poorly, suggesting that perhaps Gauger’s ineptitude at this particular task had somehow gone unnoticed by Cohen.

Update: Or maybe not. After that poll ended, Trump tweeted that it was “a joke,” as Politico’s Kyle Cheney spotted. “I was in 9th place and taken off. (Politics?)” he wrote. Maybe — or maybe CNBC detected the vote-rigging. That possibility would explain why Cohen went back to Gauger a second time.

But remember, too, how much Trump focused on online polls once the general election campaign got underway in 2016. During the primaries, his popularity with Republicans kept him atop most polls. In the general, he consistently trailed Hillary Clinton and, following the presidential debates, was generally seen as having been soundly beaten. So he would turn to the sort of garbage polls that Cohen had tried to rig 18 months before, touting his overwhelming victories with the conservative audience at Drudge and his success in other post-debate polls at sites that were also often linked from the Drudge homepage.

For Trump — not unlike other politicians, certainly — it has always been important to seem popular and dominant. …

The Journal report is a reinforcement that there were two points at which we see illicit investments by Cohen and the campaign meant to protect or goose the candidacy: Shortly before it began and shortly before Election Day — both points at which Trump seemed vulnerable. It raises the question: From June to October 2016, when Trump went from dominating the Republican field to trailing Clinton badly, why should we not assume that other surreptitious investments might have been made?

We have a hunch that one Robert Mueller might know a little bit about that last point.