The investigation into former President Donald Trump’s alleged role in a scheme to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels is set to move further into view on Monday, with former Trump attorney Michael Cohen saying he’s been asked to report to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and Cohen’s one-time legal adviser Robert Costello set to appear before the grand jury.
The movements come after Trump said Saturday he expects to be arrested this week in connection with the yearslong case, and called on his supporters to protest any such move. That has contributed to security concerns in New York City, where law enforcement officials are preparing for various potential scenarios.
Cohen, a central figure in the grand jury investigation, said he has been asked to be at the district attorney’s office Monday as a rebuttal witness.
“Yes, I was asked to make myself available and to be at the DA’s office tomorrow as a rebuttal witness,” Cohen said on MSNBC Sunday. But Cohen had said he wasn’t sure if he’d be answering questions before the grand jury or in an interview with the Manhattan DA. “Whether it’s before the grand jury or just with them for another interview, again, I’m not sure,” Cohen said.
Cohen admitted to paying $130,000 to Daniels just before the 2016 election to stop her from going public about an alleged affair with Trump. (Trump has denied the affair.) When Cohen pleaded guilty to federal charges, he said he facilitated the payment in coordination with and at the direction of Trump.
CNN reported Sunday that Trump’s team had requested that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office call a witness with information on Cohen’s credibility. It’s an unusual move in grand jury proceedings, but Trump’s legal team believes the district attorney is presenting the testimony for “optics,” according to a source familiar with the matter.
Costello, who has represented Trump allies like Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani, told CNN he is appearing before the grand jury at the request of Trump’s legal team. He contacted both the Manhattan district attorney’s office and lawyers for Trump to offer evidence that contradicts what Cohen has said publicly about the alleged hush money payments, a person familiar with the matter said. Trump’s attorneys asked the DA’s office to call Costello before the grand jury, this person said.
CNN has reached out to the DA’s office.
Costello told CNN he has handed over hundreds of documents to the Manhattan district attorney, including more than 300 emails related to Cohen, and plans to offer evidence that contradicts what Cohen has said publicly about hush money payments he facilitated.
Costello also says he has turned over contemporaneous memos of his meeting with Cohen at the Regency hotel several years ago and his interview with the US attorney after Cohen waived attorney-client privilege.
In a letter to prosecutors obtained by CNN, Trump’s legal team requested that Costello testify before the grand jury about what Cohen told him. Costello contends Cohen repeatedly told him he did not know of any criminal activity by Trump in any matter, according to the letter, which also says Cohen waived attorney-client privilege.
“Given the central role Mr. Cohen’s testimony plays in this grand jury investigation, we believe this testimony – that Mr. Cohen previously stated that he was unaware of any criminal activity by President Trump – is crucial to allow the grand jury to exercise its ‘role … as a buffer between the accused and the government,’” Susan Necheles, who is representing Trump in the Manhattan case, wrote in the letter.
In a social media post Saturday, Trump said he expects to be arrested in connection with the investigation, though he did not expand on why he thought charges were imminent and his team said after his post that it had not received any notifications from prosecutors.
Trump, referring to himself, said the “leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States will be arrested on Tuesday of next week.” In an echo of Trump’s appeals to supporters in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, he called Saturday for action, writing: “Protest, take our nation back.”
An indictment against Trump would be historic, marking the first time a former US president or major presidential candidate has ever been criminally charged. And while Trump has an extensive history of civil litigation both before and after taking office, a criminal charge would represent a dramatic escalation of his legal woes as he works to recapture the White House.
Still, the former president has been agitating for his team to get his base riled up and believes that an indictment would help him politically, multiple people briefed on the matter told CNN.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg wrote in an email to staff on Saturday that his office will “not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York.” He said his office is coordinating with the New York City Police Department and the court to “ensure that any specific or credible threats against the office will be fully investigated and that the proper safeguards are in place so all 1,600 of us have a secure work environment,” according to the email, which was first obtained by Politico.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has attacked Bragg and said any possible indictment would be “an outrageous abuse of power,” on Sunday said that he didn’t think there should be protests. “I don’t think people should protest this, no. And I think President Trump, if you talked to him, he doesn’t believe that either,” the California Republican said.
A lawyer for Trump, Alina Habba, predicted “mayhem” in New York if an indictment comes down.
“If there are (security) concerns, that’s rightfully so,” Habba told CNN’s Paula Reid Sunday evening. “If this is what we’re doing in this country, you better secure the premises. … People are going to be upset.”
She said that “no one wants anyone to get hurt” and Trump supporters should be “peaceful” while exercising their First Amendment right to protest.
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