Trump grand jury could hear from prosecution critic’s star witness

A Manhattan grand jury, which is expected to soon vote on whether to indict Donald J. Trump, could hear testimony Monday attacking the prosecution’s star witness, according to people familiar with the matter.

The testimony would come from an attorney, Robert J. Costello, who would appear at the request of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, the people said. Mr. Costello was once legal counsel to Michael D. Cohen, the former fixer of Mr. Trump who was a key witness for the Manhattan DA’s office.

Mr. Costello and Mr. Cohen had a falling out, and Mr. Costello would apparently only undermine Mr. Cohen’s credibility, people said.

Under New York law, a person to be charged may request that a witness appear on their behalf. Mr. Trump’s attorneys have asked Mr. Costello to testify, but the final decision rests with the grand jury; it is unclear if they have made a decision. The grand jury has heard evidence linking the former president to a hush money payment to a porn star.

Mr. Costello’s appearance would come shortly after Mr. Cohen had completed his own grand jury testimony. Also, if Mr. Costello testifies, there is a possibility that Mr. Cohen will be asked to return to disprove some of Mr. Costello’s claims.

A spokeswoman for prosecutors declined to comment, as did Mr Costello. An attorney for Mr. Cohen, Lanny J. Davis, declined to comment.

District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, a Democrat, is expected to seek indictment against Mr. Trump as early as this week. There were several signals that indictment could be imminent: Prosecutors gave Mr Trump an opportunity to testify, a right for people who will soon be indicted. You’ve now interviewed almost every major player in the hush money saga before the grand jury.

Mr. Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money to bury her history of an affair with Mr. Trump.

The payment came ahead of the 2016 presidential election, and Mr. Trump subsequently reimbursed Mr. Cohen. Prosecutors are expected to charge Mr Trump with overseeing the incorrect recording of reimbursements in his company’s internal records. The records erroneously stated that payments to Mr. Cohen were for “legal expenses.”

Mr Trump has denied any wrongdoing as well as an affair with Ms Daniels and blasted the investigation as politically motivated. He has also called Mr. Bragg, a Democrat and the first black man to serve as district attorney, a “racist.”

Mr. Costello’s appearance on the grand jury Monday would likely trigger a series of attacks on Mr. Cohen’s credibility by Mr. Trump’s attorneys. If the case goes to trial, they’re expected to highlight Mr. Cohen’s 2018 plea to federal crimes for paying hush money and bring up other episodes from the former fixer’s personal history.

But prosecutors could counter that Mr. Cohen lied about paying hush money on Mr. Trump’s behalf and has consistently told his story for the past few years.

Mr. Costello will likely argue that Mr. Cohen cannot be trusted. In 2018, when Mr. Cohen faced the federal investigation into hush money, a mutual friend introduced the two men. Mr. Costello offered to represent Mr. Cohen and they spent hours meeting and talking on the phone.

A Republican attorney with ties to Mr. Trump’s legal team, Mr. Costello offered to act as a bridge between Mr. Cohen and the President’s attorneys. At one point, Mr. Costello contacted one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys to ask if the President could pardon Mr. Cohen.

But the pardon never came, and Mr. Cohen never formally retained Mr. Costello. Mr. Cohen later waived her attorney-client privilege, Mr. Costello said.

Their relationship soured when Mr Cohen broke up with Mr Trump and became one of his main opponents.

“We will not be involved in this trip,” Mr. Costello wrote in an email to Mr. Cohen in 2018, adding that his law firm “will send you an invoice.” When it came, Mr. Cohen refused to pay.


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