President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen has known evangelical leader Jerry Falwell, Jr. since 2012, according to BuzzFeed News — and Cohen, who is known for making scandals disappear, reportedly assured the Trump campaign that Falwell Jr. would offer his support.
In January 2016, when Trump’s candidacy was still considered a long shot and he had almost no brand-name evangelical support, Falwell Jr.’s endorsement “marked a turning point for the entire religious right,” said Randall Balmer, a Dartmouth University religion professor who studies the evangelical movement. “Until that moment, this is a movement that had trumpeted its support for family values, and I don’t need to tell you there is no way anyone could claim this was a candidate who supports family values.” Falwell Jr., Balmer said, “led the way. He led the charge.”
Even before his formal endorsement, Falwell Jr. had already spoken in flattering terms about Trump. He told students at Liberty University during a Trump visit in early January 2016, “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others, as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment.”
Cohen, who had met with Falwell Jr. several times over the years in his New York office, urged the evangelical leader to lend formal support to Donald Trump and endorse his candidacy.
After the trip, Cohen reached out to Falwell Jr. again, reminding him he had promised to endorse Trump.
Cohen, who did not have a formal role in the Trump campaign, is facing intense public scrutiny because of a federal criminal investigation into his activities. Much of the recent attention has focused on Cohen’s payment of $130,000 in hush money during the 2016 election to dissuade a porn star from talking about what she says was a sexual relationship with Trump. Other business activities by Cohen have also attracted scrutiny: He reportedly arranged for a payoff to a Playboy model for her silence about an affair involving the finance chair of the Republican National Committee, and he accepted $4.4 million in consulting fees from various corporations, including Novartis, AT&T, and a company connected to a Russian oligarch.
There is no indication that federal investigators are interested in Cohen’s relationship with Falwell Jr.
The source familiar with Falwell’s endorsement decision says that he is “sure” Falwell discussed the Florida lawsuit with Cohen.
The Florida lawsuit involves two individuals who claim they were pushed out of a business arrangement by Falwell Jr. and a young pool boy he met while vacationing at a luxury hotel.