Blockbuster Appearance From His Former Attorney Blows Hole Through Michael Cohen’s Testimony

So, say you’re an attorney who decides to testify against a former client and assert he did all manner of bad things. What happens when your former attorney then testifies against you? Well, we’re about to find out. 

On Wednesday, while the trial of former President Donald Trump in Manhattan was on its regular break, Robert Costello, the attorney who formerly represented Michael Cohen (who himself formerly represented Trump), testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Government: 

Costello, once the deputy chief of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office’ prestigious criminal division, alleges in his prepared testimony obtained by Just the News that Cohen repeatedly insisted that Trump had done nothing wrong when he was debriefed in 2018 while federal prosecutors were investigating whether Trump violated any election laws in 2016. Ultimately, federal prosecutors chose not to bring charges.

In the following clip, Costello testifies that much of Cohen’s recent court testimony directly contradicts what he was saying in 2018. 

Reading from what appear to be Costello’s prepared remarks, Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), quoted: 

“Cohen decided that while he didn’t believe the allegation (of the Stormy Daniels story), that he thought the story would be embarrassing for Trump and especially for Melania, so he decided he would take care of it himself.”

Costello had this to say in response: “Absolutely. And that is contrary to what this guy testified to in court in New York yesterday.” 

Their exchange continued: 

Steube: Well, and what’s not being talked about is your next paragraph, like, the reason and his motivation for that. So, if you could just kind of walk through that for the committee? 
Costello: Yeah, obviously, when we started to talk about the NDAs — and this is the very first meeting at the Regency Hotel — when, by the way, Rudy Giuliani was not involved in representing Donald Trump at that time. Cohen testified that it was a conspiracy between Giuliani and Costello as of this date — totally false. 

In any event, he also said that he didn’t discuss the Stormy Daniels matter with us — and he certainly did. I specifically asked him — because he kept on going back saying, “I can’t believe they’re trying to put me in jail for these NDAs” — so I said, “Michael, tell me about the NDA, tell me about Stormy Daniels — what did you do?” He said, “I got a call from a lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, who represented that she was going to testify that Donald Trump had sex with Stormy Daniels.” Michael Cohen said, “I didn’t believe the allegation, but I knew that such an allegation would be terribly embarrassing.” He said it would be embarrassing — he focused on Melania Trump. He said, “I didn’t want to embarrass Melania Trump.” He said, “That’s why I decided to take care of this on my own.”
I went back to that several times: “You did this on your own?” “On my own.” “Did Donald Trump have anything to do with it?” “No.” “Did you get the money from Donald Trump?” “No.” “From any of his organizations?” “No.” “From anybody connected to Donald Trump?” “No.” “Where did you get the money?” “I took out a HELOC loan against my property.” I said, “Why would you do that?” He said, “I didn’t want anybody to know where I got this money. I didn’t want Melania to know; I didn’t want my own wife to know because she’s in charge,” he said, “of the Cohen family finances.” He said, “If she saw money coming out of my account, she’d ask me a hundred questions, and I didn’t want to answer any of them.” 

It was clear, after talking to him for several days after that, whenever we talked — on the phone or in my office — that he kept on bringing up the subject that he felt he was betrayed by not being brought down to Washington, D.C. This guy thought — he said to me — that he should have been attorney general of the United States, or at least the chief assistant to the president. Ludicrous! But that’s what he thought. And he was very angry about that. He wanted to do something to put himself back into the inner circle of Donald Trump. That’s why he took care of this on his own — there had to be a motivation. 

Michael Cohen is always working for things that benefit himself. And that’s what he was doing here. That’s completely different to what he said that he told the grand jury; that’s completely different to what he’s testifying to in New York. Nobody has heard this side of the equation.

We had, perhaps, some glimmers that Costello might contradict Cohen, as Cohen tried to preemptively discredit Costello on the stand Tuesday by claiming that he wasn’t straight with Costello at the time because he didn’t trust him: 

Michael Cohen talked about meeting criminal defense attorney Robert Costello, who was close with Rudy Giuliani, in spring 2018. “There was something really sketchy and wrong about him,” Cohen said.

Here are the highlights of his testimony about Costello:

The backchannel is born: Cohen said Costello offered a “back-channel communication” to the former president to make sure Cohen was still secure. “The back channel was Bob Costello to Rudy, Rudy to President Trump,” Cohen explained. Here’s how it worked:

  • Rudy Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team as an election attorney in the White House in April 2018.
  • Giuliani thanked Costello for opening the back-channel communication, Cohen said.
  • Cohen described covert emails with references to a “friend,” who was President Trump.
  • The “potential of pre-pardons” was referenced in emails
  • Cohen described the backchannel communication with Costello as “I-spy-ish”

The “pressure campaign”: Cohen said Costello’s emails were part of a “pressure campaign” to make sure he stayed loyal to Trump, as there was concern he may retain another lawyer on the special counsel Robert Muller probe.

“I didn’t trust him:” Cohen said he never told Costello about Trump’s involvement in the American Media Inc. payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal or Cohen’s payment to Stormy Daniels. “I didn’t trust him,” Cohen said.

“I believed based upon all of our conversations that he would immediately run back to Mr. Giuliani and that communication would be divulged to President Trump.”

And, of course, Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY), who came under his own scrutiny Tuesday after mentioning that he had met with and prepared Cohen for testifying (though it appears Goldman may have been referring to prior congressional testimony, not the current court proceedings), gave vent to his own caterwauling over Costello’s testimony, characterizing it as “jury tampering”: 

“You know that coming down here [to Washington, D.C.], outside of that courtroom while that witness is on the stand, to try to impeach his credibility and his testimony is jury tampering,” Goldman told Costello. “You know it is unethical. You know that you are trying to discredit a current witness at a current trial.”

The above article asserts, by the way, that Costello never actually represented Cohen:

Although he advised Cohen at one point and sought to represent him when he was being investigated for campaign finance violations, Costello was never retained as Cohen’s lawyer.

I will say, I’m interested to see if the defense calls Costello. If so, presumably his testimony in court will align with his testimony before Congress, so it’s a little difficult to see how giving consistent sworn testimony before Congress would or could have an effect on the jury — particularly given that they’ve been instructed to avoid all coverage of the case while the trial is ongoing. Otherwise, under Goldman’s standard, both Cohen and Daniels are guilty of such as well. 

There are several possibilities to contemplate here:

  1. Costello could be lying — assuming he’s willing to lie under oath to Congress (which hasn’t worked out so well for others, particularly those with favorable things to say in regard to Trump). 
  2. He could be telling the truth but Cohen could have been lying to him in 2018 — which is what Cohen now asserts. (Of course, this requires weighing the many faces of Michael Cohen and his evolving narratives against one another…and his well-known penchant for perjury.)
  3. He could be telling the truth and Cohen could be lying now. 

No matter how you slice it, the jury, in their deliberations, will have to decide which Michael Cohen to believe. Good luck with that. 


Jonathan Turley: Michael Cohen’s Testimony Offers ‘Nothing New’ to Convict Trump

Tuesday at Trump’s Trial – Cohen Cross-Examined (Trump Trial – Day 17)

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