President's fixer 'rigged opinion polls to make boss look good'
Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, reportedly paid a tech expert to rig opinion polls in his boss's favour and to create a Twitter profile that praised Cohen as a "sex symbol".
He paid the expert to boost Mr Trump's standing in two online polls, one on America's top business leaders and another on potential 2016 presidential candidates, the 'Wall Street Journal' reported.
Cohen also asked for a Twitter account called "Women For Cohen" to be set up, which posted positive comments about him and his looks, according to the article. He allegedly agreed to pay $50,000 (€43,900) for the work but in the end handed over between $12,000 and $13,000, along with a boxing glove worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter.
Responding on Twitter, Cohen did not dispute the report, writing: "What I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of Donald Trump. I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn't deserve it."
However, Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump's lawyer, disputed that claim, saying: "This is not true. The president did not know about this if it happened."
Cohen (52) once pledged to "take a bullet" for Mr Trump but flipped after pleading guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and fraud. He was sentenced to three years in prison and is set to begin serving that term in March.
The man said to have been employed for the work was John Gauger, chief information officer at Liberty University in Virginia. The pair met shortly after Mr Trump gave a speech at the university, according to the newspaper.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump has denied a military aircraft for the most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives shortly before she was due to embark on a series of overseas trips. He hit back at Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, a day after she told him to delay his State of the Union address until after the government shutdown was over.
Ms Pelosi sent a letter to the president on Wednesday demanding that he either pushes back the January 29 speech or simply submits a written version of what he wanted to say to Congress.
"Due to the shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed," Mr Trump wrote in a retaliatory letter yesterday.
"In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I'm sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the shutdown is over."
Ms Pelosi, a 78-year-old congresswoman from California, has been at loggerheads with Mr Trump (72) throughout the shutdown, attempting to pin the blame on each other's party. Ms Pelosi cited security concerns over her calls for Mr Trump to delay his speech, saying the Secret Service and Homeland Security - which both help keep the event safe - had been partly "hamstrung" by the lack of funding.
On Wednesday, Mr Giuliani claimed he "never said there was no collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia leading up to the 2016 election.
In a heated exchange with CNN host Chris Cuomo, the former New York mayor raged about "false reporting".
"Mr Mayor, false reporting is saying that nobody in the campaign had any contacts with Russia," Mr Cuomo said.
"False reporting is saying that there has been no suggestion of any kind of collusion between the campaign and any Russians."
"You just misstated my position," Mr Giuliani said.
"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or between people in the campaign."
Mr Cuomo's face contorted into an expression of disbelief. "Yes, you have," he shot back.
"I have not," Mr Giuliani said. "I said the president of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC (Democratic National Committee)." (© Daily Telegraph London)