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Michael Cohen’s ex-lawyer to nuke Cohen's tale before Congress: ‘Habitual liar, totally unreliable’

A former federal prosecutor, Robert Costello's testimony and contemporaneous documents directly conflict with Alvin Bragg's case against Trump.

Published: May 14, 2024 8:38pm

While Michael Cohen, the disbarred lawyer and convicted perjurer, stars as the prosecution’s chief witness at Donald Trump’s Manhattan trial, House Republicans are offering a powerful counter story Wednesday:  unflattering testimony backed by contemporaneous memos from Cohen’s ex-lawyer portraying the former Trump fixer as a “habitual liar and totally unreliable witness.”

In testimony prepared to be delivered to the House subcommittee on the weaponization of government, prominent New York defense attorney Robert Costello will tell lawmakers that Cohen told his lawyers back in 2018 that he had concocted himself the hush-money scheme that Trump is charged with and had no incriminating evidence against the former president.

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.

Costello said Cohen at the time was suicidal and had been assured he could have gotten a deal from federal prosecutors if he delivered provable dirt on the former president.

“Each time Cohen said to me: ‘I swear to God, Bob, I don't have anything on Donald Trump,’” Costello’s prepared testimony states. “Cohen must have said this at least ten times because I kept coming back to it from different approaches.

“Cohen kept on saying: ‘Guys I want you to remember, I will do whatever the F ... I have to do, I will never spend one day in jail,’” Costello recalled. “I even said to Cohen at one point: ‘Michael, now is the time to tell the truth and cooperate if you want your legal problems to disappear.’

Cohen would again reply: "I swear to God, Bob, I don't have anything on Donald Trump."

When Cohen got new lawyers and began singing a different tune to the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, Costello said he secured a waiver of attorney-client privilege and turned over previously privileged memos to the federal prosecutors that directly contradicted Cohen’s new account of events.

The evidence was so compelling, Costello alleged, that federal prosecutors decided not to proceed with prosecuting Trump based on Cohen’s claims.

“After that, the U.S. Attorney's Office never dealt with Cohen again, having concluded, rightly, that he was a habitual liar and totally unreliable witness,” Costello’s prepared opening statement said. “That office chose to not bring any charges against President Trump. Clearly the correct decision. But the same cannot be said for the for the New York District Attorney's Office.”

Costello, who has never represented Trump though he once represented Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani, takes direct aim at District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment, suggesting it was riddled with legal issues and likely to be reversed if there is a jury conviction.

Costello’s prepared testimony confirms documents obtained by Just the News that show Cohen in 2018 told his defense team that he concocted the scheme to take out a home equity loan to pay porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in return for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump and that the former president didn’t know about the details.

“When asked if Trump had any knowledge of this, Cohen told me no,” Costello alleges in his prepared statement. “When asked whether Cohen got the $130,000 from Trump or any Trump entity or friend, Cohen again said no.

“When asked if this was from Cohen's own money, Cohen said no,”  Costello added. “He was asked where, then, did he get the money and Cohen explained he took out a HELOC Loan because he didn't want anybody to know where the money came from.”

Costello’s account directly contradicts the theory of the case laid out by Bragg’s prosecutors, who told the jury that Trump “orchestrated" the whole scheme to deceive voters in 2016 about alleged sexual indiscretions. Cohen also testified in the trial this week he acted on the instructions of Trump when he made the payment.

Costello’s contemporaneous notes and his upcoming testimony before Congress, however, align with other witnesses in Bragg’s case who have already testified that Trump never told them to pay the money and that’s Trump motivation for wanting to keep Stormy Daniels' allegations buried was to protect his wife, Melania.

Cohen told his defense team he arranged the payments because he saw it as “a way to ingratiate himself with Donald Trump and save embarrassment for Melania because he knew that Donald Trump was very concerned about not doing anything to embarrass Melania,” Costello will tell Congress.

It is unclear yet whether Costello will be called as a defense witness later in Trump’s trial, but his testimony planned for Wednesday gives Trump’s allies plenty of ammunition to use, at least in the court of public opinion.

Specifically, Costello will allege that Cohen tuned on Trump because he felt left behind when he didn’t get a job in the Trump administration in Washington and that he demonstrated a propensity to change stories that alienated federal prosecutors and defense lawyers alike.

“He lied repeatedly both about consequential and inconsequential details. Whenever it suited his purposes, Michael Cohen showed no hesitation to lie,” Costello’s testimony stated. “The pattern is consistent that Cohen lies when he thinks it is to his own advantage but tells the truth when it is to Michael Cohen's own advantage.”

Determining whether Cohen is to believed will likely will be a herculean task for jurors.

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