Lawyer assails Trump grand jury witness Michael Cohen as 'liar on revenge tour'
A former legal adviser to Michael Cohen, a central witness in the Manhattan district attorney's investigation into President Donald Trump's hush money paid to a porn actress before the 2016 election, assailed Cohen Monday as liar whose cooperation with prosecutors was rooted in a pursuit of "revenge."
Robert Costello told reporters that he pressed that case before a New York grand jury, claiming that Cohen was "totally unreliable" as prosecutors appeared to be nearing a decision on whether to seek criminal charges against the former president.
"He's on the revenge tour," Costello said, referring to Cohen who has alleged that Trump authorized a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels to silence her in the weeks before the 2016 election.
Costello, who was tapped by the Trump legal team to testify, suggested that Cohen had acted on his own, and arranged the payment himself.
The lawyer described a combative session before the grand jury in which he claimed to have offered a thick package of email communications that would undercut Cohen's credibility.
Costello said the communications contained "100 instances of him (Cohen) lying to us."
Cohen dismissed Costello's contention that he had acted alone in arranging the hush money payment.
"His facts are all twisted," Cohen told MSNBC late Monday, adding that Trump's defense "will fail."
"It's absolutely not true," Cohen said.
Trump caused a stir Saturday when he claimed a Manhattan grand jury could level an indictment against him as early as Tuesday.
Under New York law, a person who is expected to be indicted can request that a witness appear on his or her behalf. But Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina has said that Trump had not plans to participate, leaving Costello to make a case against a poprosecution.
Here’s what we know about the case:
Who is Michael Cohen?
Cohen is the star witness in the Trump investigation after being convicted and serving time in prison for crimes including arranging the $130,000 payment to former porn actress Stormy Daniels. The payment was arranged to prevent publication of a news story amplifying her claim weeks before the 2016 election that she had sex with Trump.
Trump later reimbursed Cohen. The payment could be the grounds for a campaign finance violation.
Who is Robert Costello?
Costello is a Republican lawyer with ties to Trump’s legal team. He offered to serve as a bridge between Cohen and Trump's team, according to The New York Times. At one point, Costello contacted one of Trump’s lawyers to ask if the president might pardon Cohen, the paper said.
But the pardon never came, and Cohen never formally retained Costello – or paid him, according to The Times. Cohen later waived their attorney-client privilege, Costello has said.
How does this affect the 2024 presidential campaign?
The criminal indictment of a former president would be unprecedented. Legal experts such as Laurence Tribe, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, said Trump's looming indictment in New York is uncharted waters.
Trump also faces a federal investigation by special counsel Jack Smith about his role in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, and the classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. And a Georgia grand jury in Fulton County is investigating his effort to overturn the 2020 election in that state.
But Trump said he’ll continue to run for president if he’s indicted. His first rally of the 2024 presidential race is scheduled for March 25 in Waco, Texas.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Robert Costello undercuts Michael Cohen in Trump grand jury probe