A lawyer affiliated with Donald Trump will appear before a grand jury in New York to argue against bringing criminal charges against the former US president, several US media outlets have reported.
Robert Costello has been asked to testify Monday after he said he had information that raises questions about the credibility of Michael Cohen, a star witness in the investigation into alleged hush money payments to an adult film star during the 2016 election campaign, he said.
Citing unidentified sources, the Reuters and Associated Press news agencies reported that Costello will challenge Cohen’s account of the events.
Costello told The Washington Post newspaper that he has an “ethical obligation to report” what he knows. He will testify behind closed doors, and the details of his statements, as well as whether his appearance will affect the investigation, remain unclear.
The testimony comes two days after Trump said he expects to face criminal charges in connection with the case and urged his supporters to protest his possible arrest.
The New York investigation centers on a $130,000 payment Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, made to porn star Stormy Daniels in the waning days of the former president’s 2016 campaign. Prosecutors say the money amounts to an illegal campaign donation.
Daniels has claimed she had sexual relations with Trump, who is married, a claim the former president denies.
Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 for his payments to Daniels and another woman, and for lying to Congress. U.S. law requires the disclosure of campaign contributions and limits them to $2,700 per person.
Trump denied early on that the payment to Daniels was related to the campaign, saying the deal with the porn star, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was “used to stop the false and extortionate allegations made by her about an affair.”
And in recent days, the former president — who is seeking the White House again in 2024 — has repeatedly berated Alvin Bragg, an elected Democratic prosecutor overseeing the New York investigation.
Trump said Monday the Daniels case is based on “discredited” testimony from Cohen, who describes his former fixer as a “convicted liar, felon and jailer.”
“ALVIN BRAGG SHOULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CRIME OF ‘DEMINATION IN A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION,'” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.
Many Republicans have defended Trump against the possible charges, with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accusing Bragg of “political revenge”.
However, in response to Trump’s call for protests over the weekend, should he be arrested, McCarthy said he didn’t think people should take to the streets. “We want peace there,” he told reporters.
Republican chairmen of powerful House of Representatives committees demanded on Monday that Bragg testify before lawmakers about what they called a “politically motivated prosecution decision.”
#BREAK: @Jim_Jordan, @RepJamesComerAnd @RepBryanSteil Demand communications, documents and testimony from Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. pic.twitter.com/OyIMgadaQN
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) March 20, 2023
“You are reportedly about to participate in an unprecedented abuse of prosecuting power: the indictment of a former president of the United States and currently declared candidate for that office,” the chiefs of the House Judiciary, Supervisory Board, wrote. and administrative panels in a letter to Bragg.
Republican lawmakers also questioned Cohen’s credibility as a witness, as well as the timing and legal rationale behind the potential charges, warning that prosecuting Trump would “invariably interfere with the court of the 2024 presidential election.”
Aside from the New York case, Trump faces federal investigations into his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters, as well as his possible mishandling of classified documents.
The state of Georgia is also investigating Trump’s attempts to reverse the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to President Joe Biden.
In all cases, Trump has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed them as politically motivated.