Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer for Donald Trump, says in his new book (out today) that a key endorsement for Trump was linked to his ability to stop “racy” photos of Becki Falwell from leaking to the public. But, as if they have any credibility left, the Falwells are denying it.
Some relevant history: In early 2016, before the Iowa caucuses, Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced his support for Trump. That came as a surprise at the time, considering Ted Cruz was still in the race and even announced his candidacy at Liberty University, but Falwell’s endorsement opened the floodgates for more Trump support from white evangelicals. It also made little sense at the time given that Trump’s entire life seemed to go against conservative Christian ideals.
Later on, it was suspected that Falwell’s support for Trump was tied to illicit photos of his wife — perhaps in the possession of “pool boy” Giancarlo Granda — which we found out about through, of all people, comedian Tom Arnold. But much of this was speculation at best.
Then, over the course of the past couple of weeks, all the dominoes began falling. Falwell resigned after the public became aware that his wife slept with Granda many times a year, for many years, while Falwell himself watched from the corner of a room. Granda told Reuters that he and Becki had FaceTime calls during which she was naked. He had screenshots. They eventually landed in the lap of Michael Cohen, who (it was suspected) later used those screenshots to pressure Falwell into endorsing Trump.
Cohen’s new book appears to confirm parts of that theory without overtly admitting it. Reuter’s Aram Roston, who’s broken many of the Falwell stories, explains:
In “Disloyal: The Memoir,” Cohen describes thinking that his involvement in the Falwell photo matter would be a “catch and kill” — the practice of American tabloids to obtain and then suppress unfavorable stories about celebrities — “but in this case it was just going to be kill.”
He later writes: “In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency.”
In the book, Cohen doesn’t explicitly say that the endorsement was the favor he sought in return for his help in having kept the Falwell photos from getting out. But his account marks the first time he has linked the two issues.
Maybe the juicier part of the story is this incident that occurred after the Reuters story was published, when Falwell spoke to the reporter.
[Falwell] said that “someone stole some pictures I took of my wife in the back yard. Topless. Big deal. OK?” But he said his endorsement of Trump had nothing to do with Cohen’s role in suppressing the racy photographs.
“It was no quid pro quo,” Falwell said. “There was no me supporting Trump because of whatever Michael was doing.”
And then there’s this:
Toward the end of the call, Becki Falwell, who has not commented on the Cohen book or the photographs, could be heard urging her husband to cut short the conversation with Reuters. “Hang up the goddamn phone,” she told her husband. “Hang up the phone, Jerry!”
That’s unusual… in large part because what Falwell was saying was far less scandalous than the speculation — so why wouldn’t you want that story out there?
When Cohen was recorded by Tom Arnold, he said he was in possession of one of the Falwells’ photos and “It’s terrible” — meaning it’s extremely racy. A topless photo of a wife, taken by her husband, in the backyard doesn’t seem to fit that description…
And how exactly could someone steal those pics?
That’s not the only issue. The Falwell version of this story is that he endorsed Trump on his own, not due to a threat, which is still damning! Even taking topless photos of your wife seems to violate anything you would hear from evangelical Christian pastors, even within the context of marriage. (So much for a Proverbs 31 wife.) And it still leaves open the question of what Granda did with those screenshots.
If anything, the Falwells’ response to everything suggests there’s so much more to this story we don’t know about yet.