Reports have emerged that Robert Costello, a lawyer aligned with former US President Donald Trump, is set to appear in front of a grand jury in New York to argue against laying criminal charges against Trump. Costello has been asked to testify after he claimed to have information that raises questions about the credibility of Michael Cohen, a key witness in the investigation into alleged hush money payments made to an adult film star during the 2016 election campaign. The New York probe centres on a $130,000 payment that Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, said was made to porn star Stormy Daniels in the waning days of the former president’s 2016 campaign. Prosecutors say the funds amount to an illegal campaign donation. Daniels has claimed that she had sexual relations with Trump, who is married, an allegation that the former president denies. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 over his payments to Daniels and another woman, as well as for lying to Congress.
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to the case and has urged his supporters to protest his possible arrest. He has also blasted Alvin Bragg, an elected Democratic district attorney overseeing the investigation in New York, describing him as politically motivated. Many Republicans have come to Trump’s defence against the possible charges, with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accusing Bragg of “political vengeance”. Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to challenge the former president for the 2024 Republican nomination, criticised the New York prosecutor but did not dismiss the case against Trump outright.
The Republican chairs of powerful House committees have also demanded that Bragg testify before lawmakers about what they called a “politically motivated prosecutorial decision”. They questioned Cohen’s credibility as a witness, as well as the timing and legal rationale behind the possible charges. They warned that prosecuting Trump would “unalterably interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election”.
Beyond the New York case, Trump is facing federal investigations over his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of his supporters, as well as his possible mishandling of classified documents. The state of Georgia is also conducting a probe into Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election that he lost to President Joe Biden.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing in all the cases, dismissing them as politically motivated.