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A key Trump ally testified before a grand jury on Monday and tried to discredit Michael Cohen’s earlier testimony in a secret money investigation that could lead to the first indictment of former president.
Robert CostelloSpeaking to reporters after more than two hours of testimony, said he told the truth about the New York County prosecutor’s star witness – that he could not be trusted.
“If they want to go after Donald Trump and they have strong evidence, so be it. But Michael Cohen is a long way from having strong evidence,” said Costello, a former legal adviser to Cohen: “He’s totally unreliable.”
Cohen, who was one of Trump’s attorneys at the time of adult film actress Stormy Daniels’ payment, fired back in an interview with Ari Melber on MSNBC: “So many things he said were wrong.”
Costello, who has represented Trump allies Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon, told reporters after his testimony that he met Cohen in April 2018 when Cohen was being investigated for a number of potential crimes, l ‘one of them regarding the silent payment to Daniels which now focuses on Asset. Daniels claimed she had an affair with Trump, which Trump denied. Cohen paid him $130,000 to keep quiet in the final days of the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen in 2018 pleaded guilty to a federal campaign violation over the payment, which he says he made at the behest of Trump, who had him reimbursed.
Costello told reporters that when he spoke to Cohen in 2018, Cohen said he made the payment himself and it was his idea, not Trump’s. “Michael Cohen did it all on his own,” Costello said.
“I said, ‘Why would you do that?’ He said, “Because I wanted to keep this secret. Same secret from my own wife,” Costello said, noting that Cohen took out a loan to make the payment. He said Cohen told him, “I didn’t want Melania [Trump] know. I didn’t want my wife to know.
Costello added that he turned over more than 300 emails regarding his discussions with Cohen, as well as notes from his discussions with federal prosecutors who ultimately decided not to indict Trump in the case.
Cohen dismissed Costello’s post-testimony remarks, saying their conversations were never as detailed or as involved as he claimed.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about. He’s making up so many stories here,” Cohen said, accusing him of using Trump’s strategy of trying to “cover his tracks.”
Cohen added that prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office summoned him to the Lower Manhattan courthouse to rebut Costello’s testimony, but then told him it was not necessary.
Trump touted Costello’s upcoming testimony on Sunday on his social media site, Truth Social, calling it “THE MOST IMPORTANT WITNESS TO APPEAR BEFORE THE NEW YORK CITY GRAND JURY.
Costello said Monday that Trump did not ask him to testify before the grand jury and did so only because he felt he had an “ethical obligation.”
Costello’s interactions with Cohen have previously been detailed in Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller report on possible obstruction by Trump and his allies in the 2016 election. He noted that after Trump tweeted on April 20, 2018, that Cohen would never “go back” and testify against him, Costello emailed support email saying he told Giuliani about him.
“Costello told Cohen the conversation was ‘very very positive.[.] You are ‘loved’…they are in our corner. …Sleep well tonightyou have friends in high places,'” the email said, according to the Mueller report.
The grand jury appears to be in the final stages of its investigation.
Trump said on social media over the weekend that he should be stopped Tuesday, and called on his supporters to protest.
New York City police set up metal barriers and mounted cameras at the courthouse on Monday morning.
A small group of protesters showed up in Lower Manhattan early Monday evening for a demonstration organized by the New York Young Republicans.
The organization’s sergeant-at-arms, Troy Olson, mocked the possible charge against Trump of criminal falsification of business records. “After six, seven years of an armed system, all the cultural media institutions of American life against one man, is that the best they can come up with?” Olson said. “He’s going to be leading more in the polls after this.”
The group’s executive secretary, Vish Burra, chief operating officer for Rep. George Santos, said, “If Trump is arrested, I think there will be a lot of upset Americans, and that disappointment and outrage will be well justified.”
The low turnout at the rally, where it appeared members of the media outnumbered the roughly two dozen protesters, was most likely the result of Trump supporters feeling intimidated, one protester said.
“There is a huge silent majority for President Trump, more than you might think. They are afraid to speak out,” said Susan Miller, a longtime MAGA protester. “They are afraid that antifa will beat them. They are afraid of losing their jobs. They are afraid that their owner will throw them away or that they will be arrested.”