A lawyer who previously advised ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is expected to testify this week in the Manhattan grand jury investigation into former President Donald Trump’s alleged $130,000 hush money payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election.
Attorney Robert Costello is reportedly prepared to attack the credibility of Cohen, who allegedly made the payment to Daniels on Trump’s behalf and was later improperly reimbursed for the expense.
The Associated Press reported that Costello claims to have information that contradicts some of Cohen’s current statements and that “could be exculpatory for Trump.”
The report said that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office “last week subpoenaed Costello’s law firm for records and invited him to provide testimony on Monday afternoon.”
“THE MOST IMPORTANT WITNESS TO GO BEFORE THE NEW YORK CITY GRAND JURY, A HIGHLY RESPECTED LAWYER WHO ONCE REPRESENTED CONVICTED FELON, JAILBIRD, AND SERIAL FAKE STORYTELLER AND LIAR, MICHAEL COHEN, WILL BE DOING SO TOMORROW AFTERNOON,” Trump said on social media. “THE INFORMATION HE WILL PRESENT WILL SUPPOSEDLY BE CONCLUSIVE AND IRREFUTABLE!”
Trump ignited a firestorm over the weekend after he claimed on social media on Saturday that he was going to be “arrested on Tuesday.” A spokesperson for Trump later said that Trump has been given “no notification” that there will be an arrest next week.
Trump’s remarks came after a report from NBC News said federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies were analyzing security assessments and making plans to prepare for the possibility that Trump could be indicted next week, but no date was given in the report.
Many notable conservatives cast doubt on the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office investigation into the former president.
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“Prosecuting Trump over the Stormy Daniels payoff is beyond absurd,” Daily Wire podcast host Ben Shapiro tweeted. “It’s political targeting, obviously — and it’s coming from the same DA who pledged in 2022 not to prosecute misdemeanor resisting arrest, certain obstruction of governmental administration, and prostitution.”
Prosecuting Trump over the Stormy Daniels payoff is beyond absurd. It's political targeting, obviously — and it's coming from the same DA who pledged in 2022 not to prosecute misdemeanor resisting arrest, certain obstruction of governmental administration, and prostitution.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 19, 2023
The case involves an alleged payment that Cohen admits he made to Daniels during the presidential race to keep quiet about an alleged 2006 tryst between Trump and Daniels. Cohen pleaded guilty to related charges and served time in prison.
Although non-disclosure agreements are legal, the potential problem for Trump centers around how his company reimbursed Cohen. The payment was listed as a legal expense and the company cited a retainer agreement with Cohen. The retainer agreement did not exist and the reimbursement was not related to any legal services from Cohen, thus setting up a potential misdemeanor criminal charge of falsifying business records. The report said that Trump personally signed several of the checks to Cohen while he was serving as president.
Prosecutors can elevate the misdemeanor to a felony if they can prove that Trump’s “‘intent to defraud’ included an intent to commit or conceal a second crime.”
Prosecutors argue that the second crime is that the alleged $130,000 hush payment was an improper donation to the Trump campaign because the money was used to stop a story for the purpose of benefiting his presidential campaign.
This article has been updated with new information.