Michael Cohen’s former attorney is expected to testify against Trump on the grand jury

A New York City defense attorney who briefly advised Michael Cohen is expected to testify Monday before the Manhattan grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s alleged role in a hush money payment to a porn star, according to people familiar with the matter.

Robert Costello, a partner in the New York office of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP and a former federal prosecutor, is said to be testifying at the request of the former president’s attorneys, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Costello advised Mr. Cohen after the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched Mr. Cohen’s home, hotel room and office in a federal investigation into hush money Mr. Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels and other conduct in April 2018. Mr Cohen is now a witness in an investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr.’s office into Mr Trump’s alleged role in the payment.

Mr Costello and a spokeswoman for Mr Bragg declined to comment.

Susan Necheles, an attorney representing Mr. Trump in the hush money case, did not respond to a request for comment. Mr Trump has denied wrongdoing and said the investigation was politically motivated. “The New York City Attorney’s Office first selected their target and has been hunting a crime ever since,” the Trump campaign email said Saturday.

While prosecutors control the grand jury trial, defense attorneys can request that a witness be summoned. The grand jury then votes on whether to hear the potential witness, attorneys said.

Prosecutors have also requested that Mr Cohen be available Monday if needed, according to people familiar with the matter. Although it wasn’t clear why Mr. Cohen, who has already testified, should be resubmitted, prosecutors could use him to refute Mr. Costello’s testimony.

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Mr Costello previously said in an interview with the Journal that Mr Cohen told him he paid Ms Daniels to protect Melania Trump, the former president’s wife. Mr Costello also said that Mr Cohen instructed him to ask Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for Mr Trump and a friend of Mr Costello, about the possibility of a pardon, the Journal previously reported. Mr Giuliani told Mr Costello at the time that Mr Trump had no talk of a pardon, Mr Costello said.

Mr. Cohen previously waived his attorney-client privilege with Mr. Costello and allowed defense attorney to speak about his communications with Mr. Cohen before the grand jury on Monday.

Mr. Cohen eventually hired another attorney to represent him in the federal criminal case and in 2018 pleaded guilty to nine counts, including one related to the payment to Ms. Daniels. In his guilty plea, Mr Cohen said Mr Trump directed him to make the payment in the final weeks of Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign to influence the election.

Mr Trump has denied any sexual encounter with Ms Daniels and said he followed the advice of Mr Cohen, his lawyer at the time.

A grand jury convened by the office of Mr. Bragg, a Democrat, has been hearing evidence of the payment since late January. The grand jury heard twice last week from Mr. Cohen, who said he expected the second grand jury session to be his final testimony.

It is unclear whether Mr Costello’s testimony could delay the timing of a possible charge. After completing testimony, prosecutors would have to present possible charges to the grand jury, which would then decide whether to charge.

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Mr Trump on Saturday urged his supporters to protest in light of the expected charges against him, adding that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday. His spokesman later told news organizations, “There was no notification other than illegal leaks.” “PROTEST, TAKE BACK OUR NATION!” Mr. Trump wrote on his social media network.

Prosecutors told their staff in an email on Saturday that safety was the top priority. “We will not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” the email said.

Write to Corinne Ramey at [email protected] and Joe Palazzolo at [email protected]

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