In Trump probe, grand jury hears from final witnesses
NEW YORK — A New York grand jury investigating Donald Trump appeared to be hearing from final witnesses as law enforcement officials accelerated security preparations Monday in advance of a possible indictment and as fellow Republicans staked out positions in a criminal probe expected to shake up the 2024 presidential race.
Testimony from Robert Costello, a lawyer who had a falling out with the key government witness in the Trump investigation, came as the grand jury that for months has been investigating Trump over hush money paid to a porn star during his 2016 campaign appeared to be wrapping up its work.
Costello was invited to appear after saying he had information raising questions about the credibility of Michael Cohen, a key witness in the investigation. Costello’s testimony was expected to give the former president an indirect opportunity to make a case that he shouldn’t face criminal charges.
Costello had provided Cohen, himself a lawyer, legal services several years ago. In a news conference after his grand jury appearance, he told reporters that he had come forward to provide exculpatory information about Trump and to make clear that he did not believe Cohen 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 Costello was never his lawyer and “he lacks any sense of veracity.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an expected GOP presidential candidate, criticized the investigation but also threw one of his first jabs at the former president.
“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 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.”