Falwell Jr. Denies Trump Fixer Michael Cohen Saved His Butt, Then Handed Butt To Team Trump
July 31st 2019
By Bill Berkowitz
Jimmy Swaggart denied; Jim Bakker denied; Ted Haggard denied; countless other conservative Christian evangelicals claimed there was nothing to see, as their scandalous behavior – sexual peccadilloes and often involving millions of dollars -- began to become public. Now, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., an early and often supporter of Donald Trump, is denying reports that Trump fixer, Michael Cohen, helped him resolve a blackmail attempt over racy personal photos. Was it a coincidence that after Cohen’s intervention, Falwell Jr. became Team Trump’s go-to guy in the evangelical community?
According to Reuters, “Months before evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr.’s game-changing presidential endorsement of Donald Trump in 2016, Falwell asked … Cohen for a personal favor, Cohen said in a recorded conversation reviewed by Reuters. Falwell … said someone had come into possession of what Cohen described as racy ‘personal’ photographs — the sort that would typically be kept ‘between husband and wife,’ Cohen said in the taped conversation. According to a source familiar with Cohen’s thinking, the person who possessed the photos destroyed them after Cohen intervened on the Falwells’ behalf.”
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn reported that “during an appearance on Fox Radio's The Todd Starnes Show [Falwell] insisted that ‘no compromising or embarrassing photos’ of himself existed.
"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," Falwell told host Todd Starnes. "This report is not accurate."
The Daily Mail pointed out that “The Falwells enlisted Cohen's help the year Trump announced his presidential candidacy. At the time, Cohen was Trump's confidant and personal lawyer, and he worked for the Trump Organization. He handled a wide variety of tasks for Trump during the campaign, including negotiating 'hush' payments with porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who each claimed they had affairs with Trump.”
Falwell, son of the late Jerry Falwell, endorsed Trump just before the pivotal Iowa caucuses, “subsequently barnstormed with Trump and vouched for the candidate’s Christian virtues,” Reuters reported. Over the past few years, Falwell has not wavered from that endorsement.
Falwell’s Gay-Friendly Flophouse
While the Reuters revelations are hot, Falwell Jr. has been involved in another equally bizarre story. In 2017, Politico ran a story about Falwell and his family’s ownership “of a tumble down, flea bag hostel in one of the seedier parts of Miami that Politico not inaptly termed a ‘den of vice’ and later ‘Falwell’s gay-friendly flophouse with an on-site liquor store,’” TPM’s Josh Marshall recently pointed out.
Last year, journalist Aram Roston, who had broken the flophouse story, reported “on a lawsuit two disgruntled business partners had filed against Falwell and another business partner, Giancarlo Granda. The Fernandezes first filed in 2015, had the case tossed out and then filed again in 2017,” according to TPM’s account.
In 2012 the Falwells travel to the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. There they strike up a “friendly relationship” with a 21-year-old pool boy on staff named Giancarlo Granda. The couple is apparently very taken with Giancarlo and soon they’re flying him on private jets up to Virginia, providing him with financial assistance and eventually deciding to set him as a business partner in the new Alton Hostel business venture. Falwell, or technically his wife and son, put up a million dollars for a downpayment on the property and then almost a million more on renovations. This was all because they “wanted to help Granda establish a new career and build a business.” They gave him an equity stake in the business in exchange for him managing the property even though he had no experience managing anything.
In other words, their staunch conservatism notwithstanding, the Falwells put together a kind of bespoke one-man social democracy on behalf of Miami millennial Giancarlo Granda for reasons that are less than clear.
Now, this all sent tongues a’wagging: morally censorious Liberty University chief poobah and his wife suddenly strike up a friendship with a pool boy on a trip to Miami and decide they like him so much that they were flying him on private jets and investing almost $2 million in giving him a start at life.
TPM pieced together a timeline:
2012: Falwells meet Giancarla Granda in Miami; Cohen, Granda and Trump visit Liberty University for Trump’s convocation speech. Granda is introduced to Trump.
2013: Legal documents for the Alston Hostel are put together and the property is purchased. This is with Jesus Fernandez Sr. and Jesus Fernandez Jr., who will later file the suit that brings the details to light.
2014: Giancarlo Granda added to incorporation papers and given an equity stake in the business.
2015: Fernandez and son first sue Falwell and Granda. But the case is thrown out. Trump announces candidacy. At some point during the same year, the Falwells approach Cohen for assistance with the compromising photographs and the extortion.
2016: In January 2016, Falwell makes his pivotal endorsement, which Cohen was reportedly confident he could secure long in advance.
2017: Fernandez and son refile their lawsuit, this time with more success.
Falwell Jr. Supports Adding Two More Years To Trump Presidency
Just a few days before the Reuters story broke, Falwell, came up with one of his giddiest and dizziest of ideas, which he expressed in a tweet – to his 70,000 followers -- dated May 5: “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.”
Trump of course, responded in kind, retweeting Falwell’s tweet to his 60 million followers: “Despite the tremendous success that I have had as President, including perhaps the greatest ECONOMY and most successful first two years of any President in history, they have stolen two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back.....”
After being retweeted – and commented on -- by such folks as Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe (529,000 followers), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston (136,000 followers), and tennis legend Martina Navratilova (275,000 followers), The Roanoke Times’ Dan Casey spoke with Falwell, who claimed that the original tweet “was a little tongue-in-cheek.”
“When a weekend comes along, and I get a little bored, that’s when I go on Twitter,” Falwell told Casey. “When I get bored, I have to stir something up. Much to my wife’s chagrin.”
Falwell told Casey that he doesn’t believe that Trump should get a two-year overtime added to his presidency, but he does think there should be some kind of compensation: The tweet “was just a way to make a point that Trump needs to be compensated,” Jerry added. “Somehow, he deserves to be compensated for the time he’s lost over a bogus and corrupt accusation. ... The people who came up with the fake dossier, there needs to be a day of reckoning for them.”
Given the Reuters racy photos story, and what will likely be lots of follow-up stories, it looks like Falwell will not be bored again for quite some time.