Michael Cohen sets up GoFundMe page for legal costs

Michael Cohen sets up GoFundMe page for legal costs

Michael Cohen is sticking his hand out and asking the public for help paying for his legal defense, and one anonymous donor already has ponied up USD 50, 000.

Through his lawyer, Donald Trump's former "fixer" says collecting contributions through a GoFundMe page set up after his guilty plea this week is the only way to ensure the truth comes out about the president.

It's also the latest sign that Cohen is broke.

Trump's former personal lawyer owes at least USD 1.4 million to the IRS after pleading guilty Tuesday to tax evasion, campaign finance violations and bank fraud, and has racked up millions of dollars in debt.

Because of his plea, he is being forced to give up his New York City taxi medallions, which have shrunk in value as Uber and Lyft shake the industry.

"He's without resources and owes a lot of money," Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, said in a television interview on Wednesday.

Cohen, who once said he would "take a bullet" for Trump, commented in court Tuesday that Trump had directed him to arrange payments of USD 130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels and USD 150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to buy their silence about alleged affairs before the election.

While Trump denies the affairs, his account of his knowledge of the payments has shifted.

In April, Trump denied he knew anything about the Daniels payment. He told Fox News in an interview aired yesterday that he knew about payments "later on."

By today morning, the GoFundMe page dubbed the "Michael Cohen Truth Fund" had raised more than USD 149,000 from about 2,770 donations.

Most reaction on social media was incredulous and unsympathetic, but one USD 5 donor was encouraging, writing: "The USA would love you for your honesty."

Confusion over the web address for the fundraising page, michaelcohentruthfund.com, led someone on Wednesday to anonymously register a shorter version, michaelcohentruth.com, that redirects to Trump's re-election campaign website.

Cohen's crowdfunding campaign, which has a goal of raising USD 500,000, could be a way for Cohen to bolster his whistleblower status by appealing to Democrats and others who want to see Trump taken down.

It's not the first time someone who felt wronged by Trump has asked the public to pony up.

Fired former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe raked in more than USD 500,000 in just five days of his legal defense campaign, and Daniels funded her lawsuit against the president with about USD 500,000 raised from nearly 17,000 donors.

Cohen could ultimately need much more to wipe his books clean.

Court papers filed in connection with his guilty plea detailed his precarious financial state, as well as his side gigs as a taxicab magnate, high-interest lender and broker of real estate and handbag deals.

In one arrangement, according to the papers, Cohen used a line of credit he obtained at 5 per cent interest to float a USD 6 million loan to a Chicago taxi operator at 12 per cent interest.

Later, when applying for the USD 500,000 home equity credit line used to finance the Daniels payment, the papers say, Cohen failed to disclose USD 14 million in medallion-related debt. Cohen and his wife claimed on the loan paperwork that they had a positive net worth of more than USD 40 million.