Trump Grand Jury Hears From Lawyer Who Assails Cohen’s Credibility

In a last-ditch effort to stave off the indictment of Donald J. Trump, a witness on Monday appeared before a Manhattan grand jury at the request of the former president’s lawyers, providing testimony aimed at attacking the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness.

The man who testified, Robert J. Costello, who was once a legal adviser to Michael D. Cohen, the crucial witness for the Manhattan district attorney’s office in its investigation of Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, has already spent hours testifying before the grand jury.

Mr. Costello and Mr. Cohen had a falling out a few years ago, and Mr. Trump’s lawyers hoped that Mr. Costello’s grand jury appearance on Monday would undercut Mr. Cohen’s testimony.

Under New York law, a person who prosecutors expect to indict can request that a witness appear on his or her behalf. The final decision to hear the witness rests with the grand jury.

In an interview after his appearance, Mr. Costello attacked the prosecutors, saying they had withheld evidence from the grand jury.

“They seemed clearly one-sided and not after the truth,” Mr. Costello said, adding that the prosecutors had “cherry-picked” information from a packet of more than 300 emails he provided them.

Mr. Costello said he at one point waved around the packet in front of the jurors, remarking, “This is what you’re missing.”

The Looming Indictment of Donald Trump

The testimony lasted more than two hours, he said, and was at times hostile. Addressing Mr. Cohen’s credibility, he said, “I told the grand jury that this guy couldn't tell the truth if you put a gun to his head.”

Prosecutors had summoned Mr. Cohen to the courthouse where the grand jury meets, thinking he might be useful in rebutting Mr. Costello’s testimony. They did not call him into the grand jury on Monday, however, and it is unclear if Mr. Cohen could be called back later in the week.

“Mr. Cohen was available for over two hours today, but we are pleased to report Mr. Cohen was not needed,” his lawyer, Lanny J. Davis, said in a text message. He added: “Once again we repeat — the facts and documents speak for themselves. Facts do matter.”

The grand jury, which could indict Mr. Trump as soon as this week, has for weeks been hearing evidence about the former president’s involvement in a hush-money payment to a porn star.

Mr. Cohen paid $130,000 to buy the silence of the porn star, Stormy Daniels, who had said she had previously had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump authorized the payment, according to Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges involving the hush money in 2018. The federal prosecutors in that case substantiated Mr. Cohen’s claim that Mr. Trump had directed that the payoff be made.

While president, Mr. Trump reimbursed Mr. Cohen, and the district attorney’s office has zeroed in on that reimbursement as a possible fraud.

The prosecutors are expected to charge Mr. Trump with overseeing the false recording of the reimbursements to Mr. Cohen as “legal expenses” in his company’s internal records.

Mr. Trump has denied all wrongdoing in the case and has said he never had sex with Ms. Daniels. He has blasted the investigation as an effort by his political enemies to bring him down. He has also called the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, a Democrat who is Black, a “racist.”

Mr. Costello’s grand jury appearance is likely to coincide with attacks from Mr. Trump’s lawyers on Mr. Cohen’s credibility. At trial, Mr. Trump’s lawyers will be likely to point out that Mr. Cohen already pleaded guilty to federal crimes involving not only the hush-money payment but also lying about a Trump hotel deal in Moscow.

Prosecutors may counter that Mr. Cohen was lying on Mr. Trump’s behalf. In recent years, the prosecutors could say, Mr. Cohen’s story has been consistent.

But Mr. Costello would disagree. Mr. Cohen and Mr. Costello were introduced in 2018, when Mr. Cohen was facing the federal investigation into the hush money and the men spent hours meeting and speaking by phone.

In one of those discussions, Mr. Cohen said it was his idea to pay the hush money, Mr. Costello said he told the grand jury on Monday.

Mr. Costello, a Republican lawyer with ties to Mr. Trump’s legal team, offered to serve as a bridge between Mr. Cohen and the president’s lawyers in 2018. Mr. Costello once contacted one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers to raise the notion of a presidential pardon for Mr. Cohen.

But the pardon never came. Mr. Cohen never retained Mr. Costello. And their relationship worsened as Mr. Cohen broke from Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen eventually waived their attorney-client privilege, Mr. Costello has said, and when Mr. Costello’s law firm sent Mr. Cohen a bill, he refused to pay.

Nate Schweber, William K. Rashbaum and Jonah E. Bromwich contributed reporting.

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