According to an exclusive report published by Reuters this Tuesday, evangelical leader and Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. had former Trump fixer Michael Cohen track down and eliminate some “personal” photographs that had come into the possession of someone looking to blackmail him.
In a recorded conversation reviewed by Reuters, Cohen said the photos were of the sort that would be kept “between husband and wife.” Cohen claims that he had the person in possession of the photos destroy them on Falwell’s behalf.
The recording of Cohen describing the incident was made by actor Tom Arnold on March 25, reportedly without Cohen’s consent.
Reuters says that a “source familiar with Cohen’s thinking” revealed that the Falwells enlisted Cohen’s help in 2015, which was the same year Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency. Cohen served as Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant at the time.
Speaking to Arnold, Cohen said the Falwells wanted to keep a bunch of “personal photographs” from becoming public.
“I actually have one of the photos,” Cohen said without describing them. “It’s terrible.”
Months after the photos were dealt with, Falwell publicly endorsed Trump for president and has been a vocal supporter ever since, even praising Trump’s alleged Christian values.
Reuters has no evidence that Falwell’s endorsement of Trump was related to Cohen’s involvement in the photo matter. The source familiar with Cohen’s thinking insisted the endorsement and the help with the photographs were separate issues.
Cohen’s connection to the Falwells sheds light on the formidable alliance between Trump and a man who, through his university, is one of the most influential evangelical figures in America. Falwell’s backing helped galvanize evangelicals and persuaded many Christians concerned about Trump’s past behavior to embrace him as a repentant sinner.
This weekend, Falwell sparked controversy when he tweeted that Trump “should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup.” By “corrupt failed coup,” Falwell is referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia. Trump then retweeted Falwell’s tweet.
After the best week ever for @realDonaldTrump – no obstruction, no collusion, NYT admits @BarackObama did spy on his campaign, & the economy is soaring. I now support reparations-Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) May 5, 2019
As Reuters points out, the time of Cohen’s involvement with the photo matter coincided with his coordination with Liberty University to promote Trump’s campaign.
The Falwells told Cohen that someone had obtained photographs that were embarrassing to them, and was demanding money, the source said. Reuters was unable to determine who made the demand. The source said Cohen flew to Florida and soon met with an attorney for the person with the photographs. Cohen spoke with the attorney, telling the lawyer that his client was committing a crime, and that law enforcement authorities would be called if the demands didn’t stop, the source said.
Months later as the campaign heated up and Trump was facing significant obstacles, Cohen “repeatedly reached out” to Falwell and “pleaded” with him to back Trump.
According to Reuters, Falwell soon after obliged and made his game-changing announcement that he was backing the real estate mogul, reality TV celebrity, and serial adulterer.
Falwell is denying Reuter’s report. During an interview on the Todd Starnes Radio Show, Falwell said the report is “not accurate.”
“There are no compromising or embarrassing photos of me,” Falwell said. “While we have a long-standing friendship with Michael Cohen, we never engaged or paid Cohen to represent us in any legal or other professional capacity, and Cohen did not ever resolve any legal matter on our behalf.”
This story will be updated with any new developments.