Michael Cohen has turned to the public after declaring independence from President Donald Trump, and he’s having some success.
In just four days since the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer pleaded guilty to eight felonies, he has raised more than $155,000 from nearly 3,000 donations through a GoFundMe page asking for help with his legal bills as he goes through a “journey to tell the truth about Donald Trump.”
Dubbed the “Michael Cohen Truth Fund,” the online fundraiser was set up by Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis on Tuesday, the day Davis says Cohen “made the decision to take legal responsibility” and pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance law violations associated with Trump’s campaign for president.
The two campaign finance violations Cohen pleaded guilty to this week stem from his role in alleged hush-money agreements with two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who say they had affairs with Trump. The president has denied both women’s allegations.
Cohen said in a court statement that he made those payments “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” referring to then-candidate Trump, and added that he participated in the transactions with the principal purpose of influencing an election.
“This is Michael fulfilling his promise made on July 2nd to put his family and country first and tell the truth about Donald Trump,” Davis told ABC News, referring to comments Cohen made in an interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Support for Cohen’s declaration of independence ranges from an anonymous $50,000 donation to small donations of less than $50, as well as help from his personal friends.
Felix Karafin, a longtime friend of Cohen who made two $500 donations to Cohen’s fund, told ABC News that he gave money to the fund for two reasons.
“I love Michael, and I want Trump out,” Karafin said.
Karafin, a New York-based physician, said that Cohen is not like the bad person as he’s portrayed in the media, but rather an “essential giver” who’s willing to help out anyone around him. He added that Cohen has gone through a severe emotional and financial hardship under an aggressive prosecution.
Grayson Everett, who runs a political consulting firm, told ABC News that he donated $100 to the fund because he thinks highly of Cohen’s stated intention to cooperate with any investigative agencies.
“It took a lot of courage for Michael Cohen to plead guilty to 8 counts of some serious financial crimes,” Everett said.
Trump’s current personal attorney Rudy Giuliani insisted that the charges against Cohen don’t implicate the president and instead attacked Cohen on his past record of reversing his statements.
“It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time,” Giuliani said in a statement.
In January, when the Wall Street Journal first revealed the Daniels’ deal, Cohen insisted that he had acted on his own in the Daniels deal and that he had not been reimbursed by the campaign or the Trump Organization, contrary to his recent court statement that he had acted under Trump’s direction.
Everett, however, said he doesn’t doubt the sincerity of Cohen’s sworn statements before the court on Tuesday.
“I think he has every idea how much is at stake and how long of a road he has to go,” Everett said. “Not only is he up against a billionaire, he also has to deal with the wrath of a runaway presidency. I think this case presents a refreshing opportunity for truth to win out over power.”
Trump, who had previously said that Cohen would remain loyal to him and “never flip” mocked his former lawyer, calling his professional competence into question.
“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” the president tweeted Wednesday morning.
If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
Cohen is just the latest addition to the long line of embattled former Trump aides or advisers caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation who have turned to online crowdfunding to help pay for snowballing legal fees, including former Trump campaign aides Roger Stone, Michael Caputo and George Papadopoulos.
Among them, Caputo has had the most success with his GoFundMe page so far, raising more than $334,000 since April this year. Caputo is now helping out with legal bills of others facing the Mueller probe, including former Trump campaign national security adviser J. D. Gordon and former Stone aide Andrew Miller, who has recently been subpoenaed by the special counsel.