Trump NY Grand Jury Near End of Work 03/21 06:04
A New York grand jury investigating Donald Trump over a hush money payment
to a porn star appears poised to complete its work soon as law enforcement
officials make preparations for possible unrest in the event of an indictment.
NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York grand jury investigating Donald Trump over a
hush money payment to a porn star appears poised to complete its work soon as
law enforcement officials make preparations for possible unrest in the event of
Trump over the weekend claimed without any evidence that he would be
arrested on Tuesday, with his representatives later saying he was citing media
reports and leaks. There was no indication that prediction would come true,
though the grand jury appeared to take an important step forward by hearing
Monday from a witness favorable to Trump, presumably so prosecutors could
ensure the panel had a chance to consider any testimony that could be remotely
seen as exculpatory.
The next steps in a grand jury process shrouded in secrecy remained unclear,
and it was uncertain if additional witnesses might be summoned. But a city
mindful of the riot by Trump loyalists at the U.S. Capitol more than two years
ago took steps to gird itself from any violence that could accompany the
unprecedented prosecution of a former president, while fellow Republicans
eyeing the 2024 presidential nomination sized up how an indictment might upend
The testimony from Robert Costello, a lawyer with close ties to numerous key
Trump aides, appeared to be a final opportunity for allies of the former
president to steer the grand jury away from an indictment. He was invited by
prosecutors to appear after saying that he had information to undercut the
credibility of Michael Cohen, a former lawyer and fixer for Trump who later
turned against him and then became a key witness in the Manhattan district
Costello had provided Cohen legal services several years ago after Cohen
himself became entangled in the federal investigation into the hush money
payments. In a news conference after his grand jury appearance, Costello told
reporters that he had come forward because he did not believe Cohen, who
pleaded guilty to federal crimes and served time in prison, could be trusted.
"If they want to go after Donald Trump and they have solid evidence, then so
be it," Costello said. "But Michael Cohen is far from solid evidence."
Responding to Costello's claims on MSNBC later Monday, Cohen said that
Costello was never his lawyer and "he lacks any sense of veracity."
There were no clear signs that Costello's testimony had affected the course
of the investigation. Cohen had been available for over two hours in case
prosecutors wanted him to rebut Costello's testimony but was told he was not
needed, his attorney said Monday.
The testimony came two days after Trump said he expected to face criminal
charges and urged supporters to protest his possible arrest. In a series of
social media posts through the weekend, the Republican former president
criticized the New York investigation, directing particularly hostile rhetoric
toward Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat.
New York officials have been monitoring online chatter of threats of varying
specificity, and even as portable metal barricades were dropped off to
safeguard streets and sidewalks, there were no immediate signs that Trump's
calls for protests were being heeded.
Costello briefly acted as a legal adviser to Cohen after the FBI raided
Cohen's home and apartment in 2018. At the time, Cohen was being investigated
for both tax evasion and for payments he helped orchestrate in 2016 to buy the
silence of two women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Trump.
For several months, it was unclear whether Cohen, a longtime lawyer and
fixer for the Trump Organization who once boasted that he would "take a bullet"
for his boss, would remain loyal to the president.
Cohen ultimately decided to plead guilty in connection with the payments to
porn actor Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, which he said were directed
by Trump. Since then, he has been a vociferous Trump critic, testifying before
Congress and then to the Manhattan grand jury.
Trump, who has denied having sex with either woman, has branded Cohen a
liar. Costello broke with Cohen before he pleaded guilty, after it became clear
he was no longer in Trump's camp.
In the years since, Costello, a veteran New York attorney, has represented
Trump allies including his former political strategist Steve Bannon and his
personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Even as the New York investigation pushes toward conclusion, Trump faces
criminal probes in Atlanta and Washington that, taken together, pose
significant legal peril and carry the prospect of upending a Republican
presidential race in which Trump remains a leading contender. Some of his
likely opponents have tried to strike a balance between condemning a potential
prosecution as politically motivated while avoiding condoning the conduct at
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an expected GOP presidential candidate,
criticized the investigation but also threw one of his first jabs at the former
president in a move likely to intensify their simmering political rivalry.
"I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure
silence over some kind of alleged affair," DeSantis said at a news conference
in Panama City. "I can't speak to that."
But, he added, "what I can speak to is that if you have a prosecutor who is
ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction and he chooses
to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush
money payments, that's an example of pursuing a political agenda and
weaponizing the office. And I think that's fundamentally wrong."