Falwell Jr. defends university's tweet pushing votes for Trump in reportedly rigged poll

Jerry Falwell Jr. stood by a tweet from Liberty University calling for followers to vote for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE in a 2014 online poll that according to multiple outlets had been rigged. 

The tweet in question, sent on Jan. 23, 2014, linked to a CNBC poll that The Wall Street Journal reported in January had been rigged in Trump's favor with the help of Liberty University employee John Gauger, who manages a private consulting firm.

"Our friend @realdonaldtrump has been nominated as 1 of @cnbc's top 25 businessmen of the last 25 yrs. Vote 4 him here..." the tweet read.

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Fallwell Jr., an ally of Trump and Liberty University's president, told Politico for an article published Monday that a representative of the Trump business organization asked the university to utilize Twitter to gain votes in the poll. He said it's typical for speakers at the university's weekly gathering to ask the university to promote their work. 

“After speaking for free at Convocation and being so complimentary to our University in his remarks, I considered Donald Trump to be a friend of Liberty University and was happy to publicize the poll in hopes that Liberty followers would be willing to vote for him on the heels of his very positive recent campus appearance,” Falwell told Politico.

Liberty University is a nonprofit, which prevents it from participating in "political campaign activity," according to the IRS. Otherwise, the university would have to sacrifice its nonprofit status.

Falwell pointed out to Politico that Trump was not a candidate when the tweet was published.

The Wall Street Journal earlier this year reported that Trump's former lawyer Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenBarr to testify in House oversight hearing next month Stone received 'favorable treatment' because of relationship with Trump, former prosecutor will testify Nadler to subpoena AG Barr over Berman firing MORE hired Gauger's firm RedFinch LLC to rig polls in Trump's favor in 2014 and 2015 as the current president considered his run.

Cohen reportedly aimed to increase support for the president ahead of a campaign by manipulating these polls.

Politico reported Monday that Falwell's son Trey Falwell also accompanied Gauger to collect his earnings in January 2015 and has since deleted an Instagram post featuring a photo of cash on top of a hotel bed. 

Gauger told The Wall Street Journal that Cohen paid him one-fourth the amount he was promised, with the addition of a boxing glove from a mixed martial arts fighter.