John Gauger, the Chief Information Officer for the controversial Liberty University, has been accused of rigging polls in favor of Donald Trump at the behest of the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. The allegations first appeared in a Wall Street Journal report on January 17.
In addition, Gauger allegedly set up a Twitter account for Michael Cohen that was named, WomenForCohen. The account, which is still active, describes itself as, “Women who love and support Michael Cohen. Strong, pit bull, sex symbol, no nonsense, business oriented, and ready to make a difference!” In November 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations. There are reports that Cohen has been in co-operation with Robert Mueller’s investigation regarding Trump’s plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Cohen has confirmed the accuracy of the Journal story, telling CNN, “What I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of Donald J. Trump. I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.” The president’s current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the Journal in response to the story, “If one thing has been established, it’s that Michael Cohen is completely untrustworthy.” Michael Cohen will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in February 2019.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Cohen Reached Out to Gauger Through Tech Company RedFinch Solutions
The Wall Street Journal reports that Cohen hired Gauger through Gauger’s IT company RedFinch Solutions. The Journal report says that Gauger was not paid the agreed $50,000 for his work. Gauger says that he received a fraction of what he was owed, and that was paid in cash that was presented to Gauger in a Walmart plastic bag. That cash amounted to somewhere between $12,000 and $13,000. In addition to the cash, the Journal reports that Gauger was given a boxing glove that had previously been worn by a Brazilian MMA fighter. The article goes on to say that Gauger billed the Trump Organization for the $50,000. Cohen has denied the cash story and said that the money was paid to Gauger by check.
The Journal story identifies two polls, one from CNBC in January 2014 that ranked the “top business leaders” in America. That poll was done before Donald Trump entered the presidential race in 2014. According to the poll, Trump was not in the top 100.
In 2015, a Drudge Report poll was also allegedly rigged by Gauger. Although that poll only gave Trump 5 percent of the vote among other prospective Republican presidential nominees.
Speaking to the Journal, Gauger’s lawyer, Charles James, said that Cohen had promised Gauger more work in the future with the Trump Organization, that promise was never fulfilled.
2. Gauger Was Hired by Liberty University in August 2012
An article on Liberty University’s website says that Gauger was hired by the school in August 2012. Gauger’s first role as the Director of Specialized Initiatives. That piece says that Gauger is a Liberty graduate, as part of the class of 2009. Gauger gained an M.B.A. and a B.S. in business from Liberty. The then-chief information officer, Matthew Zealand, said of Gauger, “John has consistently demonstrated a willingness and a drive to accomplish projects of any size. His collaborative spirit and ability to work well with a wide range of people has lead John to being the obvious candidate for this new role on my team. He has a positive energy and creative ability that has proven to be both effective and valuable to IT, and to Liberty University as a whole.”
According to Gauger’s LinkedIn page, he assumed the role of chief information officer and the vice president of analytics in September 2016. On that profile, Gauger says that he began RedFinch Solutions in February 2005. Among those who endorse RedFinch of their website is ABC’s “Shark Tank” shark, Barbara Corcoran. Corcoran is quoted as saying, “After our first meeting, I was firmly convinced RedFinch was our best option.”
Gauger also says that he is the chief information officer for 4C Health Solutions, a hospital in Midlothian, Virginia.
3. Gauger Auditioned to Be on ‘Survivor’ in 2005 Where He Bragged About His ‘Uncanny Ability to Make Anyone Like Me’
Heavy.com discovered an audition tape that Gauger made in 2005 for the TV series “Survivor.” Gauger says in the clip that he is a 24-year-old project manager from Lynchburg who has an “uncanny ability” to make anyone like him. Gauger said that despite this, if selected, he may be the most hated “Survivor” contestant of all time. Gauger says that he “lives life on the edge.” It’s not clear if the video is meant as a parody, as during on segment, Gauger runs with scissors.
4. Gauger’s Boss at Liberty University Is an Avowed Donald Trump Loyalist
Gauger’s boss at Liberty University is an avowed Donald Trump loyalist. In January 2019, Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of the school, told the Washington Post, “Why have Americans been able to do more to help people in need around the world than any other country in history? It’s because of free enterprise, freedom, ingenuity, entrepreneurism and wealth. A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.”
In October 2018, Falwell referred to Trump as a “moral person.” Two months earlier, Falwell said that evangelicals had stopped supporting Attorney General Jeff Sessions, not long after it was clear that Sessions and Trump were not seeing eye-to-eye.
5. WomenForCohen Retweeted a Michael Cohen Tweet in 2016 Claiming Online Polls Were More Accurate then CNN
The WomenForCohen account has not been active since December 2016. In September 2016, the account retweeted a message from Michael Cohen that claimed online polls were more accurate than those conducted by CNN. The account had also retweeted messages from conservative personalities such as Diamond and Silk as well as Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn.