UNITED STATES NEWS

In Trump probe, NYC grand jury hearing from final witnesses

Mar 19, 2023, 9:07 PM | Updated: Mar 20, 2023, 5:04 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — A grand jury was hearing from final witnesses Monday in the investigation into Donald Trump as law enforcement officials accelerated security preparations 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.

Robert Costello, a lawyer who had a falling out with the star government witness in the Trump investigation, arrived Monday afternoon at the building where the grand jury has been meeting after being invited to appear before the panel. His testimony was expected to give the former president an indirect opportunity to make a case that he shouldn’t face criminal charges over hush money paid to a porn star during his 2016 campaign.

Costello was asked to appear by the Manhattan district attorney’s office after he said he had information raising questions about the credibility of Michael Cohen, a key witness in the investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter who insisted on anonymity to discuss secret legal proceedings.

Costello’s appearance is yet another indication that prosecutors are moving to wrap up their probe, with grand jurors presumably being offered an opportunity to consider any testimony or evidence favorable to Trump that could weaken the case for moving forward with an indictment. It was unclear whether Costello’s testimony has any potential to change the course of a grand jury probe that seems close to concluding.

Cohen’s lawyer said his client was available for another appearance but was not needed.

The testimony is coming two days after Trump said he particularly hostile rhetoric toward Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat.

It’s not clear when prosecutors might wrap up their work, but law enforcement in New York has been making physical preparations for any unrest surrounding a possible indictment. In the morning, a New York Police Department truck began dropping off portable metal barricades that could be used to block off streets or sidewalks.

Even as the New York investigation pushes toward conclusion, Trump faces criminal probes in Atlanta and Washington that, taken together, pose significant legal peril and carry the prospect of upending a Republican presidential race in which Trump remains a leading contender. Some of his likely opponents have tried to strike a balance between condemning a potential prosecution as politically motivated while avoiding condoning the conduct at issue.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an expected GOP presidential candidate, criticized the investigation but also threw one of his first jabs at the former president in a move likely to intensify their simmering political rivalry.

“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 at a news conference 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.”

Mike Pence, the former vice president who’s expected to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination, castigated Trump in an ABC News interview last weekend as “reckless” for his actions on Jan. 6 and said history would hold him accountable. Even so, he echoed the former president’s rhetoric that an indictment would be a “politically charged prosecution.”

“I have no doubt that President Trump knows how to take care of himself,” Pence said. “And he will. But that doesn’t make it right to have a politically charged prosecution of a former president.”

Costello briefly acted as a legal adviser to Cohen after the FBI raided Cohen’s home and apartment in 2018. At the time, Cohen was being investigated for both tax evasion and for payments he helped orchestrate in 2016 to buy the silence of two women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Trump.

For several months, it was unclear whether Cohen, a longtime lawyer and fixer for the Trump Organization who once boasted that he would “take a bullet” for his boss, would remain loyal to the president.

Cohen ultimately decided to plead guilty in connection with the payments to porn actor Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, which he said were directed by Trump. Since then, he has been a vociferous Trump critic, testifying before Congress and then to the Manhattan grand jury.

Trump, who has denied having sex with either woman, has branded Cohen a liar. Costello broke with Cohen before he pleaded guilty, after it became clear he was no longer in Trump’s camp.

In the years since, Costello, a veteran New York attorney, has represented Trump allies including his former political strategist Steve Bannon and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

___

Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press journalists Michelle L. Price, Aaron Morrison, Jill Colvin, Ted Shaffrey, David R. Martin, Noreen Nasir, Seth Wenig and Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.

___

Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP.

United States News

Associated Press

3 Columbia University administrators put on leave over alleged text exchange at antisemitism panel

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University said it has placed three administrators on leave while it investigates allegations that they exchanged unprofessional text messages while attending a panel discussion about antisemitism on campus. The university said the administrators work for its undergraduate Columbia College, which hosted the panel discussion “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present […]

56 minutes ago

Associated Press

All involved in shooting that critically wounded Philadelphia officer are in custody, police say

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia police say they believe they have in custody everyone involved in a shooting that critically wounded a police officer after a traffic stop. The 31-year-old officer and his partner stopped a car carrying four people shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday in the Kensington neighborhood of northeast Philadelphia, the city’s police commissioner, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

California boy, 4, who disappeared from campground found safe after 22 hours alone in wilderness

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A 4-year-old California boy who wandered away from a campground in the Sierra National Forest was found safe after spending 22 hours alone in the wilderness, authorities said. A search-and-rescue team of about 50 officers and volunteers set out around 11 a.m. Thursday after the child was reported missing from the […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

One man died and five others were hospitalized in downtown St. Louis shooting

ST. LOUIS (AP) — One man is dead and five others have been wounded in a downtown St. Louis shooting, police said. Police believe women were fighting in a park when men interfered and drew firearms, according to social media posts from the agency. The man who died was in his mid-twenties, police said. Five […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Michigan sheriff’s deputy fatally shot pursuing a stolen vehicle in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan county sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot while pursing a suspected stolen vehicle in Detroit, the Oakland County sheriff’s office said Sunday. Bradley J. Reckling, who was on duty in an unmarked car, was following a 2022 Chevy Equinox Saturday evening after the vehicle was reported stolen earlier in the day […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Authorities search in rural Colorado for suspect in shooting that left 1 dead, 2 injured

ALAMOSA, Colorado (AP) — Officers went door to door in a rural southern Colorado on Sunday as aircraft searched from overhead for a man suspected of shooting three people, killing one, and then fleeing on foot into farmland after a failed carjacking. Suspect Henry Corral, 44, should be considered armed and dangerous, said police in […]

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

In Trump probe, NYC grand jury hearing from final witnesses