A Manhattan grand jury that is expected to vote soon on whether to indict Donald J. Trump may hear testimony Monday attacking the prosecution’s star witness, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The testimony would come from a lawyer, Robert J. Costello, who would appear at the request of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the people said. Mr. Costello was once a legal adviser to Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, who has been a key witness for the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Mr. Costello and Mr. Cohen had a falling out, and Mr. Costello would appear solely to undermine Mr. Cohen’s credibility, the people said.
Under New York law, a person who is expected to be indicted can request that a witness appear on his or her behalf. Mr. Trump’s lawyers have asked that Mr. Costello testify, but the final decision rests with the grand jury; it is unclear whether they have made a decision. The grand jury has been hearing evidence about the former president’s involvement in a hush money payment to a porn star.
Mr. Costello’s appearance would come soon after Mr. Cohen concluded his own grand jury testimony. If Mr. Costello testifies, there is also a chance that Mr. Cohen will be asked to return to rebut some of Mr. Costello’s assertions.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office declined to comment, as did Mr. Costello. A lawyer for Mr. Cohen, Lanny J. Davis, declined to comment.
The district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, a Democrat, is expected to seek an indictment of Mr. Trump as soon as this week. There have been several signals that charges may be imminent: The prosecutors gave Mr. Trump an opportunity to testify, a right given to people who will soon face indictment. They have now questioned nearly every major player in the hush money saga in front of the grand jury.
Mr. Cohen made the $130,000 hush money payment to the porn star, Stormy Daniels, to bury her story of an affair with Mr. Trump.
The payment came in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, and Mr. Trump subsequently reimbursed Mr. Cohen. Prosecutors are expected to accuse Mr. Trump of overseeing the false recording of the reimbursements in his company’s internal records. The records falsely stated that the payments to Mr. Cohen were for “legal expenses.”
Mr. Trump has denied all wrongdoing, as well as having had an affair with Ms. Daniels, and has blasted the investigation as politically motivated. He has also called Mr. Bragg, a Democrat and the first Black person to serve as the district attorney, a “racist.”
Mr. Costello’s appearance in the grand jury on Monday would likely kick off a string of attacks from Mr. Trump’s lawyers on Mr. Cohen’s credibility. If the case goes to trial, they are expected to highlight that Mr. Cohen himself pleaded guilty to federal crimes in 2018 stemming from the hush money payment, and to bring up other episodes from the former fixer’s personal history.
But prosecutors may counter that Mr. Cohen was lying about the hush money payment on Mr. Trump’s behalf, and has been consistent in the telling of his story in recent years.
Mr. Costello is likely to argue that Mr. Cohen can’t be trusted. In 2018, as Mr. Cohen was facing the federal investigation into the hush money, a mutual friend introduced the two men. Mr. Costello offered to represent Mr. Cohen, and they spent hours meeting and speaking by phone.
As a Republican lawyer with ties to Mr. Trump’s legal team, Mr. Costello offered to serve as a bridge between Mr. Cohen and the president’s lawyers. At one point, Mr. Costello contacted one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers to ask if the president might pardon Mr. Cohen.
But the pardon never came, and Mr. Cohen never formally retained Mr. Costello. Mr. Cohen later waived their attorney-client privilege, Mr. Costello has said.
Their relationship worsened as Mr. Cohen broke from Mr. Trump, and became one of his primary antagonists.
“We will not be involved in that journey,” Mr. Costello wrote Mr. Cohen in a 2018 email, adding that his law firm “will be sending you a bill.” When it came, Mr. Cohen refused to pay.
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