Michael Cohen once swore Trump wasn’t involved in Stormy Daniels payment, his ex-attorney testifies

A lawyer who formerly advised Michael Cohen claims the ex-Trump attorney said the former president had nothing to do with a hush money payment made to pornographic performer Stormy Daniels and that Cohen took care of the arrangement himself. 

Robert Costello, an attorney who advised Cohen after Cohen was hit with federal charges in 2018, testified before the House Weaponization Committee on Capitol Hill Wednesday during the same week Cohen has been testifying against his former boss in a Manhattan courtroom. 

Costello, a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, explained he is able to discuss his interactions with Cohen because he “waived the attorney-client privilege and the duty of loyalty of a lawyer to a client.” 

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Costello testified before the grand jury for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against former President Trump. Costello testified in March 2023, just weeks before Bragg’s grand jury indicted Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. 

Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges. 

Costello recalled an interaction with Cohen in 2018, during which he said the ex-Trump attorney was “suicidal and desperately looking for an escape route” after being indicted. 

“I advised him that the SDNY thought he had committed crimes and that he might have evidence they could use for a prosecution of President Trump,” Costello testified Wednesday. “I explained to Cohen how he was not the target of the investigation but was a bump in the road and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office would run over him if it led them to Donald Trump.” 

Costello testified that he explained to Cohen that if he had “truthful information that would implicate Donald Trump, I could get him out his legal trouble by the end of the week — if he cooperated against Donald Trump.” 

“I emphasized that any information Cohen could give would have to be truthful, otherwise it was useless,” Costello testified, saying he did this “numerous times” during their first meeting. 

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

During the conversation, Costello said, Cohen told him he would do “whatever” he had to do to not spend even one day in prison. 

Costello then referred back to a conversation he had on the phone with Cohen days earlier, saying Cohen indicated he was “seriously contemplating jumping off” the roof of the New York City Regency Hotel because he “couldn’t handle the pressure of the upcoming criminal case.” 

Costello said he pressed Cohen to reconsider. 

“Isn’t it easier to cooperate against Donald Trump if you have truthful information, than it is to kill yourself?” he asked.

Costello also testified that he was involved in a non-disclosure agreement with adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Costello said Cohen told him he was approached by her attorney, who said she would allege she had a sexual encounter with Trump unless Trump was willing to “buy her silence.” 

Costello on Wednesday said Cohen “decided that while he didn’t believe the allegation, he thought the story would be embarrassing for Trump, and especially for Melania, so he decided to take care of it himself.” 

Costello testified that Cohen’s “motivation for this became obvious” amid Cohen’s alleged desire to work in the Trump administration after the 2016 election. 

Costello testified Cohen thought Trump would make him attorney general “or at least chief of staff to the president.” 

“Cohen then explained that, for that reason, he negotiated the sum of $130,000 in exchange for the NDA. When asked if Trump had any knowledge of this, Cohen told me no. When asked whether Cohen got the $130,000 from Trump or any Trump entity or friend, Cohen again said no,” Costello testified. 

“When asked if this was from Cohen’s own money, Cohen said no. 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.” 

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Costello, echoing what Cohen testified to during Trump’s trial this week, said Cohen told him he didn’t want his wife to know, since she handled the family’s finances. 

So far, Cohen has testified in Trump’s criminal trial that he personally paid the $130,000 payment to Daniels using a home equity line of credit in an effort to conceal the payment from his wife. Cohen said he did this because Trump told him to “handle it” and prevent a negative story from coming out ahead of the election.

Cohen testified that he was “reimbursed $420,000” for the $130,000 he paid to Daniels. Cohen said former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg suggested he “gross up” the payments, and that Trump himself was aware of the reimbursments.

But Cohen also testified at trial he didn’t tell Costello that Trump knew of the reimbursements because he was still loyal to Trump. He also said he “believed, based upon all of our conversations, that [Costello] would immediately run back to Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani and that communication would be divulged to President Trump.”

Costello stressed Wednesday that “the point” of his testimony is that “when Michael Cohen was presented with the opportunity to implicate Donald Trump in exchange for eliminating his own enormous legal problems, he repeatedly said he had nothing truthful on Donald Trump.

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“Now, after going to jail, Michael Cohen is on a revenge tour because he blames Donald Trump for the loss of his law license and the fact that he did go to jail,” Costello said. “The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York saw this and acted properly. The Manhattan District Attorney took a different route to become famous and to ‘get’ Trump.” 

Costello said Cohen is “simply not a credible man,” and claimed Cohen “lies when he thinks it is to his own advantage but tells the truth when it is to Michael Cohen’s own advantage.” 

Last year, after testifying before the grand jury, Costello told reporters Cohen was a “serial liar.” 

At the time, March 2023, Fox News Digital reached Cohen for comment on Costello’s claims. 

“If Bob Costello’s comments were any more fantastical, he would be a bestselling fiction author,” Cohen told Fox News Digital last year. “It is important to note, I never slept with Stormy. I stated years ago that the payment was done at the direction of, in coordination with and for the benefit of Donald.

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“Truth is truth, and the documents in the possession of the DANY demonstrate this.” 

Cohen is expected to continue testimony Thursday as the prosecution wraps up its case. Judge Juan Merchan is presiding at the Trump trial.